Friday, December 26, 2008

Little People Big World

Have you ever seen the show "Wife Swap"? I don't even know if it's on anymore but I saw one episode a few years ago. A friend-of-a-friend was on the show and so I watched it. Basically, two families have the mom swap families for a week or two. They are usually drastically different families and they are supposed to learn something from walking in someone else's shoes.

I was thinking about this show the other day while I was watching an episode of "Little People Big World" that I taped a while ago on my DVR. I would LOVE to see the mom on LPBW trade places with Kate Gosselin from "Jon and Kate Plus Eight" or maybe Michelle Duggar from "17 Kids and Counting". ((Yes...I'm a little bit addicted to these shows on TLC.)) I felt so bad for Amy Roloff on LPBW -- her kids seem to treat her like crap quite often. They never pick up after themselves (she admits it's because she never emphasized it while they were growing up) and often ignore her when she tells them to do something. Let me tell you -- I'm FAR from the perfect mom but my kids don't get away with ignoring a request from me. I'd like to see her trade places with a mom who has trained her kids to do their share of chores around the house just so she knows that it CAN BE DONE.

And speaking of the Duggars, did you see the latest episode of their show?? The new baby is so adorable! While I am fairly certain God is NOT calling me to have 17 or 18 kids, I admire her for listening to Him and following what she feels He is calling her to do. Can you imagine how much better this world would be if more of us actually listened to God in prayer rather than just blindly doing whatever we want to do? That's my goal for this new year -- listen quietly to God in prayer. It's quite a challenge in my house since quiet time is rare. But I WILL make it happen even if I have to take my prayer time out to the van in the garage all by myself. :-)

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year to everyone!

Want some Cash-Baq?

I signed up for a great site called CashBaq the other day. It's free to sign up and you get $5 in your account just for registering. You can earn cash back on all sorts of things. I bought an Entertainment Book for 2009 and ended up getting it for free with the cash back. They have a "deal of the day" each day as well as lots of other specials. If you want to sign up, I would really appreciate it if you did so with this link --


Sunday, December 7, 2008

Cash for Christmas

Have you started your Christmas shopping? Do you have a budget? Do you make a budget and then end up spending more than you intended? Many people do just that so you are in good company. But remember -- just because everyone else is doing it doesn't mean it's a good idea!

Ideally you want to plan for Christmas spending all year long. Remember -- Christmas comes at the same time every year so don't let it "sneak up on you". Set aside a little money every month and then next December you will be ready to go. Remember those "Christmas Club" accounts that your parents might have had at the local bank? I wonder why those fell out of favor with people? It's a great idea to set aside the money every month. I bet it was when the banks started issuing credit cards; they would rather you spend using those and then take half of the next year to pay them off.

At the first of December go to your bank and withdraw CASH for the amount of your Christmas budget. Put it in an envelope and make your spending list on the back of it. Decide ahead of time who you will buy for and how much you will spend. If you budget $20 for Uncle Joe and end up spending $40 on him then you will need to take $20 away from someone else to make it balance. When the money is gone, that's it -- you're done!

The first year we did this was was just amazing! We ended up finding sales and stayed under budget. As a result we were able to make a larger donation to a local charity than we had planned. Every year I feel such power and control when I spend cash for Christmas. I pay more attention to what I'm spending than if I were just swiping the debit card ) or worse -- the credit card. I do still use the debit card when I shop online, though. I simply make sure that I have enough cash in my envelope first and then set it aside to deposit back into the bank the next time I am out running errands.

This system has worked for us for many years now and I know that if you give it a chance it will work for you, too.

Friday, November 28, 2008

"Black Friday" is black in more ways this year

I was really saddened at the state of humanity when I read the newspaper online this afternoon. One story from the AP was about a WalMart employee in New York who was killed by a stampeding mob of customers when he opened the doors this morning. These people couldn't even be bothered to stop to help him -- they just stepped over him. Then some were actually upset at being told that the store was closing for a few hours because of the DEATH of this employee. Yes -- he died. Yes -- they whined about how long they had stood in line to get in and didn't want to leave. Yes -- their ability to purchase crap from China was more important than the life a another person. You can ready the rest of the story here. The second story came out of California. Apparently 2 people are dead after a shooting in a Toy's R Us store. Now, I need to point out that authorities have not yet determined the cause of the shooting and won't confirm that it was because of a toy. Perhaps it was gang-related. The real question is "who in their right mind brings a loaded weapon into a TOY STORE?" You can read that story here.

Bottom line -- Black Friday is truly a black day for our society as a whole this year. While there are innocent people being taken hostage and killed in India we are fighting over toys (probably imported from China) that will break and/or be forgotten shortly after Christmas morning. Pretty sad. Maybe we should all think about this and let it affect how we celebrate Christmas this year. What's more important to us? And what are we teaching our children? Is a pile of bargains under the tree more important than human life?

Sunday, November 2, 2008

Here are my little Trick or Treaters this year -- at least the 3 big ones. Rebecca (age 7) is dressed as Mary the Mother of Jesus. Melanie (age 5) is dressed as Blessed Kateri Tekakwitha, a Native American who has been recognized by the Catholic Church and elevated to the status of "blessed". Olivia (age 3) is a tiger. The older girls were dressed also for All Saints Day so their costumes were doing double duty. Olivia was supposed to be Saint Elizabeth of Hungary for All Saints Day but she decided she liked the tiger costume more. We told people she was either the tiger/lion who ate Saints Perpetua and Felicity or she was one of the tigers on Noah's Ark.

Here's my littlest Trick or Treater with daddy. Stephen is just barely 6 months old. I have an angel costume that the girls wore for their first Halloweens but it did look a little too frilly for him. Plus it was long sleeved and long legged...not a great combination for Halloween in Texas this year. I think the high that day was about 82 degrees.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Has the real John McCain come back??

I absolutely LOVED John McCain's speech at the Republican convention in Minnesota. He was full of spirit and energy and exhorting Americans to "stand up and fight" for their country. Then that John McCain sort of disappeared and this mousy guy took his place. I kept yelling at the TV screen, begging him to show that he has some fight left in him. Well, this morning I heard a clip of him at a rally in Ohio and it actually brought a tear to my eye. He was full of life again and ready to fight for the traditional America that we all love and don't want to lose. He was ready to fight to repair the economy. Best of all -- he was ready to fight to beat out Barack Obama. And the introduction he received from Rudy Giuliani was AWESOME! Now, Giuliani wasn't my favorite candidate in the primaries (that was Mike Huckabee) but I have to admit that he did a great job supporting McCain today. Why hasn't McCain had him along the campaign trail in recent weeks? Why did it take this long? Or maybe he's been there and I just haven't heard about it. It could be that the liberal media simply didn't report it. Who knows. Who cares. What I'm excited about today is that JOHN MCCAIN HASN'T GIVEN UP. We've still got a chance next week!

I want to move to Australia....

but I'm afraid that they actually DO have terrible horrible no good very bad days there, too. My husband always smiles and tells me that it's true but I have yet to admit that he might be right.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Abortion: A Red Herring Issue or Reasons for Concern?

I was told the other day that life issues are a “Red Herring” used to rally the base. Perhaps, but I see them as a cause for grave concern.

The way I see it, human life is inherently worth protecting, but we abort more than 1.1 million genetically distinct pre-born humans every year. To me, all other issues that interest me (and there are many), must be balanced against 1.1 million innocent lives lost to our abortion industries. I believe that one should vote based on the good of the nation and one’s fellow citizens rather than for one’s own self interests. Accordingly, to those who are in danger of being aborted access to free healthcare, just wages, safety from war and low taxes probably seem like insignificant issues when compared to the right to safely exit their mother’s womb.

While there are many fiscal conservatives in the Republican party who don’t care about abortion, the Democratic Party has made it quite clear in their platform that they support full access to abortion, paid for by taxpayer, and with no apparent restrictions as to the age of the client, the opinion of the father, or the procedure used. With Democratic control over the Executive and the Legislative branches, that party will have to act upon its platform, and deliver its promises or forever lose the support of NOW, NARAL, Planned Parenthood and every other “pro-Choice” group that helps bankroll their campaigns. Even with laws on the books and judicial fiat supporting abortion on demand, the Pro-Life movement is very hard to silence (much to the chagrin of the Canadian government judging from recent news articles) and will continue to press its counterattack, ensuring that the Democrats will still be able to rely upon Pro-Choice groups for as long as there is a Pro-Life opposition.

What promises have the Democrats made that they will have to deliver on?

The Democratic Party strongly and unequivocally supports Roe v. Wade and a woman’s right to choose a safe and legal abortion, regardless of ability to pay, and we oppose any and all efforts to weaken or undermine that right. The Democratic Party also strongly supports access to comprehensive affordable family planning services and age-appropriate sex education which empower people to make informed choices and live healthy lives. We also recognize that such health care and education help reduce the number of unintended pregnancies and thereby also reduce the need for abortions. The Democratic Party also strongly supports a woman’s decision to have a child by ensuring access to and availability of programs for pre- and post-natal health care, parenting skills, income support, and caring adoption programs. p. 50 of the Democratic Party Platform

The position of the Democratic Party is why I left it many years ago. They have grown more devoted to the “Pro-Choice” cause with each election cycle since then. Senator Obama’s voting record indicates that he is in full agreement within the party’s platform:

Barack Obama (in his Statement on 35th Anniversary of Roe v. Wade Decision):
"Throughout my career, I've been a consistent and strong supporter of reproductive justice, and have consistently had a 100% pro-choice rating with Planned Parenthood and NARAL Pro-Choice America.
When South Dakota passed a law banning all abortions in a direct effort to have Roe overruled, I was the only candidate for President to raise money to help the citizens of South Dakota repeal that law. When anti-choice protesters blocked the opening of an Illinois Planned Parenthood clinic in a community where affordable health care is in short supply, I was the only candidate for President who spoke out against it. And I will continue to defend this right by passing the Freedom of Choice Act as president.
As of May 11, 2007, Senator Obama became a co-sponsor of the Freedom of Choice Act (FOCA).

Excerpted from the Senate’s version of FOCA, which Senator Obama is co-sponsoring:
(a) Statement of Policy- It is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child, to terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability, or to terminate a pregnancy after fetal viability when necessary to protect the life or health of the woman.
(b) Prohibition of Interference- A government may not—
(1) deny or interfere with a woman's right to choose—
(A) to bear a child;
(B) to terminate a pregnancy prior to viability; or
(C) to terminate a pregnancy after viability where termination is necessary to protect the life or health of the woman; or
(2) discriminate against the exercise of the rights set forth in paragraph (1) in the regulation or provision of benefits, facilities, services, or information.
(c) Civil Action- An individual aggrieved by a violation of this section may obtain appropriate relief (including relief against a government) in a civil action.

Health is not defined in the FOCA, but courts have often interpreted to include any sort of physical, mental, or emotional discomfort.

Woman is not defined here. There is no indication that the law applies only to adults 18 and over.

So, what Texas laws will be overturned by Sec.4.b. Prohibition of Interference?

There are many, but the two that bother me most are parental notification laws and the ability of pro-life medical staff to refuse to provide abortion services:

From the Texas Family Code:
(a) A physician may not perform an abortion[0] on a pregnant unemancipated minor unless:
(1) the physician performing the abortion[0] gives at least 48 hours actual notice, in person or by telephone, of the physician's intent to perform the abortion[0] to:
(A) a parent of the minor, if the minor has no managing conservator or guardian; or
(B) a court-appointed managing conservator or guardian;
(2) the judge of a court having probate jurisdiction, the judge of a county court at law, the judge of a district court, including a family district court, or a court of appellate jurisdiction issues an order authorizing the minor to consent to the abortion[0] as provided by Section 33.003 or 33.004;

From the Texas Occupations Code:
§ 103.001. RIGHT TO OBJECT. A physician, nurse, staff member, or employee of a hospital or other health care facility who objects to directly or indirectly performing or participating in an abortion[0] procedure may not be required to directly or indirectly perform or participate in the procedure.

Now, you might ask, why do I care about abortion at all? After all, having been a Social Darwinist for many years, my gut instincts have a hard time standing the way of people who disagree with me destroying themselves and their offspring. The fewer of “them” there are, the less competition my children will face for educational and employment opportunities!

Unfortunately, I have come to believe that human beings are a special creation, superior to slugs, dandelions and spotted owls, and that all human life has an inherent dignity and worth that cannot be measured in strictly utilitarian terms.

I believe, based on my somewhat limited knowledge of human biology, that a genetically unique human being is created when the sperm joins with the ovum, and that, barring interference, that zygote will implant in its mother’s uterus and eventually become visibly recognizable as human and be born. This development is continuous from one moment to the next, and there is no other distinct point during development besides the moment when sperm and ovum join at which one can clearly say “This genetically distinct creature is not fully human and has no right to exist while this genetically distinct creature, one second later, is human and should have full rights to exist.”

Currently, our legal system seems very confused. A child killed by accident, in utero, during an assault can cause an assailant to be charged with murder. While a child killed, deliberately, in utero, is merely fetal tissue subject to a medical procedure.

Likewise, a child born prematurely, seven months into development, has full human rights though it is dependent on external life support systems. While a child nine months in utero, can be partially extracted via C-section and have a pair of forceps plunged through the base of its neck to kill it, even though it is only an inch or two from being able to live outside the womb with no external life support.

Being a fairly simple minded person, this is very confusing to me. Who gets to decide when life begins or when human rights should be protected? Is it the biological parents? Is it only the mother, or shouldn’t the genetic father have some say as well where consensual sex is suspected? Right now, the answer is that only the mother can say whether a biologically distinct creature within her is human with an inherent dignity and right to life, or not. And her answer to that question can change from one day to the next up to the moment when the child is completely removed from her body.

It seems to me, that if the start of life is negotiable and subject to constant reinterpretation by a family member, then the end of life might also be negotiable…

What has abortion wrought?

Using the stats found at:

From 1973, to 2005, there have been an estimated 45,669,110 abortions according to stats analyzed using CDC and other data.

About 7.9 million of these abortions were performed between 1986 and 1990…those individuals killed would now be between 18 and 22 years old. About 20 million live births took place those same years. If those people had been allowed to be born, then the number of 18 to 22 year olds would be about 35% larger than it currently is, and I doubt we’d have ever fallen short of a single military recruitment goal…

Approximately 21 million were aborted from 1973 to 1990. Had they been born, would corporate America be demanding that we allow 12 million illegal immigrants (not screened for criminal records or terrorist ties) into the country to perform labor that American’s won’t do? Or would we have the manpower to perform those jobs? (as an aside, I have no beef with the immigration rate, but only with the fact that we don’t know specifically who is coming in)

Right now, we abort one child for every five live births in this nation.

If our workforce was 20% larger, would Social Security be “in danger”? Without the abortion losses, the age 25 to 34 cohort would be larger than the age 35 to 44 cohort…and larger than all previous cohorts. We would still face a pinch with the 24 and younger cohorts, but it would take longer to feel it.

Admittedly, there is a practical advantage to killing off a workforce’s children and importing adult workers from other nations to replace them at the time when they would be entering the work force. You don’t have to expend the resources in feeding or educating them while they are “non-productive”! The downside is, they aren’t your people. They don’t know the culture, and they haven’t necessarily been trained for the types of jobs that need to be performed.

Unfortunately, I hold human life to be sacred. I believe in protecting the lives of innocents whenever possible and I believe that states have a fundamental self-interest and moral duty to protect their citizens from conception to natural death. Right now, the nation, its courts, its legislators and many of its people do not see it that way. Unborn, genetically distinct humans are a commodity that can be dispatched of at will and their remains (or leftover siblings from in vitro processes) can be used for medical research. Social acceptance of these laws will only change when we have a change of heart, but in the meantime, I will support whatever legal protections can be put in place for the most vulnerable members of our society and fight against the removal of those protections which have already been established.

Of the major parties, the Republicans are somewhat pro-life, while the Democrats, the Libertarians and the Greens all support abortion on demand. This leaves me few options if I want to execute my duty to vote as a citizen.

While taxes, war, education, and economic development are all significant issues, if one does not have the right to live, then these other things become irrelevant.

A child aborted is not going to care about the free healthcare he would have been afforded if he’d been born or about the war he did not have to fight, or the taxes he did not have to pay. While pragmatism might lead me to think my children would have an advantage should their competitors be destroyed in utero, cutting the size of their generation by 20% increases the work load and tax burden on my children when there should be more people to help with the heavy lifting of moving our society forward into the 22nd Century.

Finally, if the life of an innocent person, filled with unlimited potential, is not worth protecting, then is anyone safe from being deemed unworthy of life? If we choose not to protect life when it first begins, will we long tolerate the presence of those in their waning years? I think that we, as a nation, are better off becoming a Culture of Life!

Monday, October 20, 2008

What McCain "didn't" say might give us President Obama

Here's an awesome article from Mary Kochan at Catholic Exchange today --

In case you have trouble with the link, here are some highlights --

Why is it that with all the terrific conservative writers and speakers in this county, conservatives cannot seem to field a single national figure since Reagan who could string together a coherent, sustained argument for conservative principles? Or forget a coherent, sustained argument. I’d settle for single coherent sentence.

During the Republican convention it seemed like Sarah Palin might be able to do so. She seemed to have some wittiness about her. Take for example: “You know what a small town mayor is? That’s a community organizer with real responsibilities.” That was a great line. It was memorable and it skewered Obama. It was also 7 weeks ago. During the Civil Forum with Rick Warren at Saddleback Church, John McCain seemed able. Remember how he spit out, “At conception” before Warren had even finished asking “When does human life begin?” That was 9 weeks ago.




Imagine how the debates would have gone if, when Obama started his 95% mantra, McCain had answered, “Senator Obama is having a bad math day. You can’t give 95% of Americans a tax break when 30% of them don’t pay any income taxes.” Or imagine if McCain had said, “Corporations don’t pay taxes, Senator Obama. A corporation only has three basic accounting categories. It has costs, income, and either profit or loss. If its income exceeds its costs, it makes a profit. If its costs exceed its income, it has a loss. And guess what category taxes go under? They go under costs. And you know what happens to corporate costs? They get passed on to consumers. So-called “corporate taxes” are paid by consumers. So what you are proposing is not really a tax break, Senator Obama; what you are proposing is to raise the costs of everything that people buy from American companies both here and abroad. Not only will you make American companies less competitive globally, you plan to hide your real tax increase on all Americans under the increased cost of all their goods and services while pretending to decrease their taxes. We already went through this experience of spiraling inflation under Democrat Jimmy Carter and we have no desire to repeat it. Thank you very much, anyway.”




As with economic issues, the Republican nominees have completely failed clearly to connect their platform with the real feelings of Americans about abortion and they fail to answer the repeated lies that come from the other side. Take the final debate. It was already unconscionable that McCain had let two debates go by without speaking to this issue, regardless of the format. You either find the slaughter of 4000 American babies a day worthy of the riveted attention of the country or you don’t. But if you were going to wait until the last debate to finally open your mouth in defense of the unborn, certainly the weeks that had gone by were enough time to prepare something striking to say. Certainly we have heard ad nauseam the rhetoric of the pro-aborts and there weren’t going to be any big surprises. Certainly by now McCain and his team of advisors and writers have had time to come up with some memorable rejoinders.




Imagine if, when Barack Obama said that he would support laws restricting abortion as long they had an exception for the health of the mother, John McCain had said: “Get your facts straight, Senator. No operation to save a mother’s life was ever illegal. Doctors were always free to do anything necessary to protect the health of the mother, even if their actions indirectly took the life of the unborn infant. That was true before Roe v. Wade and it is true now and it would be true after Roe v. Wade is rightly overturned. Abortion is about the direct and intentional killing of babies. It is not health care.”

Americans have repeatedly voted to restrict abortion and you and your party have used judicial tyranny to overturn the will of the people in this matter time and again. And you have promised Planned Parenthood that you and your Democrat cohorts in congress will make it the first priority of your administration to undo every single restriction on abortion that has been voted into law across this county, whether it be parental notification, not allowing tax dollars to be used for abortion, waiting periods, informed consent laws, conscience clauses allowing doctors the right not to participate in abortions, and restrictions on using foreign aid to promote forced abortions in other countries. That’s the promise you made but that you are trying to keep secret from the American people, Senator.” McCain called Obama a “pro-abortion politician,” but he did not explain why that was true.

Imagine if, when Barack Obama had said that he believed in “privacy” and that a woman and her doctor and her family should make the abortion decision, McCain had said: “Privacy is fine when you are making a decision that does not involve another human being. Why don’t we let families get with their accountant and privately decide if owning a slave would be in their financial best interests? It is because the person they are thinking of owning as a slave has a right to his own life and freedom. The privacy argument does not hold water, Senator, because the baby that they are ‘privately’ deciding to kill is a human person with his own right to life. And it was as unjust for the Supreme Court of this country ever to deny the protection of the law to the lives of slaves, as it is unjust of the Supreme Court to deny the protection of law to lives of the unborn. Every innocent person, born or unborn, deserves the protection of the law.”

Monday, October 13, 2008

Yes, your vote DOES count!

I'm really tired of hearing from people that they aren't going to vote because their vote doesn't matter. I *might* be willing to concede that with the electoral college during a presidential election that your vote doesn't count as much in the state of Texas as it might in another state like Ohio or Florida -- you know, the "battleground states". However, that doesn't mean that you should stay home on election day because there's almost always other important races on the ballot at the same time.

Case in point -- my school district held a "special election" on October 4th for an increase in the property tax rate. The state legislature changed the system of taxes for school districts a few years ago and now all their rates have been drastically lowered and they have to hold an election in order to raise any rates. ANYWAY... my local district wanted to raise the rate by 13 cents per hundred dollars of assessed value in order to give teachers raises. According to their election literature the teachers in this district are being paid less than those in neighboring districts. Now, I'm all for paying teachers the money that they deserve. However, there's a big issue over in the Dallas school district where about 650 teachers might be laid off soon. I thought maybe we could hire some of them if we were truly losing teachers because of "low pay".

But I original point was that your vote DOES count, especially locally. The final tally showed only a 9 vote difference! (Unfortunately my taxes are increasing next year.) In another local school district they defeated a proposed tax increase by only 4 votes. So keep this in mind when you are choosing whether or not to vote next month. Even if you choose not to vote for president you should be sure to see what other issues will be on your local ballot (your congressional representative will be on there for sure). The only way your vote doesn't count is if you don't vote at all.

Monday, August 18, 2008

School starts today!

So I'll be pretty busy for the next few weeks getting used to teaching 2 children at once while keeping the 3 year old and the 3 month old occupied. This is our 3rd year of homeshcooling but the first year that I've had more than one child officially schooling. It's lunch time here and they are both done with everything except poetry -- and we will do that during the baby's nap this afternoon. The best part is that we didn't actually get started until 10am! So I realized that I can easily school my 5 year old in less than an hour and my second grader will take about 2 hours (maybe more if she drags her feet).

Happy schooling to you all whether you homeschool or send your kids to public or private school. I LOVE this time of year!

Monday, August 4, 2008

Frozen veggies and water at Albertson's

This awesome sale ends Tuesday night so be sure to check it out quickly! They are doing their "$5 off when you buy 10" sale. There are tons of items included but the best deal I found for my family is the 6 packs of bottled water and the frozen vegetables. Both of them are $1 so when you buy 10 (mix and match) you will get them for 50 cents each. I need bottles of water for the birthday party we're having this week for my 3 daughters but my local store only had one 6-pack on the shelf last night. I'll be checking again this morning hoping they got a truck overnight. But I did come home with the following --
6 pack of bottled water -- 1
14 ounce bag of frozen baby green beans -- 9
16 ounce bag of frozen corn -- 10

Total amount spent -- $10.

Not a bad deal! Especially since I have the freezer space for the veggies and they are healthier than the canned ones.

Sunday, August 3, 2008


Check out this link at CVS. The first time you use your card in August you will get something free from CVS. Check the bottom of your receipt and be sure to redeem it within one week.

Like I always say -- The best price in the world is 'free'.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Can I Poke Him??

I am FOREVER telling my 3 year old to stop poking her 2 month old brother. I tell her "don't poke Stephen while he's eating" and she replies "he's not eating...he's drinking!" Then she laughs and runs away. I'm telling you...if she wasn't so darn cute I don't know what I'd do with her.

For the last 2 hours Stephen has been blissfully sleeping (trust me -- that's a major thing in this house) and when he woke up I picked him up and started to nurse him. Olivia (the 3 year old) came in the room and said, "Is Stephen awake? Can I poke him now?" LOL! Just how do you answer that one without laughing??? You don' just enjoy the moment and be glad that for a brief time no one in the house is crying!

Friday, July 11, 2008

Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford

That sounds like advice your grandmother would give you, doesn't it? Maybe we should go back to living lives like our grandparents (or your great-grandparents if you're younger than I am). They sure lived in a different era and mindset. I know that after the stock market crash of 1929 many of them avoided any and all debt, even mortgages. That was a time when mortgages could be called in by the bank at anytime and the entire balance would be due immediately. We have legislation protecting us from that sort of thing now but we are also living in a era of cheap money and easy terms that let us think we can afford bigger and better houses. Do you think your grandparents would have thought it was a good idea to take on an "interest-only" mortgage? Or an "adjustable-rate" mortgage? Sure -- you can do something like that and plan to sell the house before the rate adjusts and just count on the equity in the house to help you at least break even. But what about the areas of the country where the values of homes were so inflated a few years ago? Those people are finding that their homes aren't even worth what they owe on them. It's one thing to be upside-down on a car loan but an entirely different thing to be upside-down on your mortgage. Counting on your equity is such a dangerous thing; tapping into that equity can be even more dangerous if your home loses value.

The moral of today's musings is this -- Don't Buy Stuff You Can't Afford. And for a good laugh about this lesson check out this video with Steve Martin from Saturday Night Live.

Thursday, July 3, 2008

Flowers for Mary

Last month my mother in law gave us a beautiful bouquet of flowers for our 12th anniversary. Here's a picture of it --
Eventually they dried out and we threw them out in the back yard to be ground into the grass when it was mowed. That was this evening that they were put out there. Well, about 20 minutes later my oldest daughter comes running in and says "Come see what we did with the flowers in the yard!" They had gathered them all up and put them around the statue of Mary we have. Eventually I intend to make it a real "Marian Garden" but haven't gotten together the money and time to do what I want. The girls remembered that (and the fact that we've brought flowers for Mary at church many times in the past) and took it upon themselves to give them to her in our yard. It was so sweet! Of course then when I came outside to take a picture they started arguing with each other about where each stem should be so I was able to get pictures of them setting it all up again.

The final picture is the standard "squinting into the sun" shot.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Target Trip

It was a great trip to Target today! Aside from the great deals, I think the best part might have been that my husband took the kids to look at the toys while I shopped all by myself.

Target brand diapers -- $13.69
6 Johnson's Buddies Soaps -- $5.64
2 Dora Bandaids -- $3.94
2 Listerine Smart Rinse -- $8.58
3 Archer Farms Coffee -- $2.97

Total: $35.64
Coupons used: $20.97
Out of Pocket Cost: $14.67

Basically, I ended up getting everything except the diapers for free and the diapers were really the only thing I actually needed today. I also plan to go back this weekend and get more of the coffee. Target's website has coupons for $1 off Archer Farms coffee and many of the stores have the small bags for $1. If your store carries them, you will probably find them by the coffee grinders. I'm a tea drinker but I'll give the coffee to my dad. He'll think it's awesome and will like it even better after he finds out that it was free. After all, he is the man who taught me about frugal living and stretching a dollar.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Quick Tuesday night shopping trip

I think this was my first decent shopping trip in almost a month because of the birth of my son. Like I said in a previous post, we have very generous friends who supplied us with meals for 2 weeks. Between those meals, the leftovers from those meals, and my well stocked pantry and freezer I really haven't had to do any grocery shopping besides milk, bread, and produce. So Tuesday I finally sat down and made time to go through my pile of coupons that has been accumulating on my kitchen counter and browsed the e-coupons at Kroger. I plan to go shopping again later in the week and really work the coupons but I needed to get a few things Tuesday night that were going off sale that night.

Here's what I was able to get --

3 jars of Miracle Whip -- $5
2 bottles French's spicy brown mustard -- $3
3 packages of Oscar Mayer hot dogs -- $2.97
4 bottles of Suave Conditioner -- $3.64

Total: $14.61
Coupons: $4
Out of pocket cost: $10.61

It doesn't sound like I saved a lot with coupons but everything was on sale so I was already getting good prices even if I didn't have coupons for some of the items.


2 gallons milk -- $6
Tortilla Chips -- $2.29
4 pkgs shredded cheese (8 oz each) -- $6.00
2 pkgs Always Maxi Pads -- $5.98
2 tubes Crest Toothpaste -- $3.88
4 bottles Pert Plus Shampoo/Conditioner -- $10

Total: $34.15
Coupons: $19.36
Out of Pocket Cost: $14.79

I used the e-coupons at Kroger for the first time on this trip and was pleasantly surprised that they worked. I'm always skeptical about something that has to be linked to me electronically. I prefer actual coupons in my hands so that I don't forget about them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

What I've Been Doing Lately

The first picture is of our new son about 4 hours after he was born. The second was taken about 30 minutes after he was born. Yes -- I know they are posted in the wrong order. My mommy brain just can't figure out how to fix that today. He is our fourth child but our first son. His 3 older sisters are excited about him and our almost-3-year-old keeps referring to him as "my baby". And to answer your questions....
1. No, we didn't keep having more children in hopes of finally having a son. We would have been happy with another daughter, too.
2. No, we don't know if we are "done" having children now that we have a son. We prefer to take things month by month and pray for God's guidance in this decision. We are open to having more children if that's what God wants for us. We are devout Catholics who aren't doing anything to prevent future pregnancies besides using the knowledge we have gained from Natural Family Planning (NFP) to recognize when I am ovulating. Maybe I'll write something more on that topic when I have had some more sleep than I've been getting recently.

This is why I've been too busy lately to post shopping deals. We're not really grocery shopping right now except for a few produce and dairy items. We have been blessed by a group of friends at church with meals every other day so we aren't even having to dig into our stockpile of staple items in the pantry and freezer right now. I did make a CVS run this morning (see post below) and hope to be back into the swing of frugal shopping by the end of the month.

CVS Deals for the week of 5-11 to 5-17

I needed to make a run to CVS today because I had almost $16 worth of extra bucks that expired today. I was told at one of the stores last month that they will take them after the expiration date but I have never tried it so I didn't want to take a chance at losing these. I wasn't really organized about this trip today but I'm blaming it on the fact that I just had a baby 10 days ago. So given that, I was pretty impressed that I could pull off ANYTHING related to shopping this week.

Here's the rundown on what I bought:
4 Colgate Max Fresh Toothpaste -- $11.96
1 Colgate Total Advanced Toothpaste -- $2.99
3 Adidas Deodorants -- $14.97
3 CVS brand Allergy Medicine -- $11.37

Total: $41.29
Manufacturer's Coupons -- $3.50
CVS Extra Bucks -- $16.96

Total Cost Out of Pocket -- $20.83
Extra Bucks generated from this trip -- $36.34

I spent way more out of pocket than I normally do at CVS but that's OK. It will balance out next time, I'm sure.

Friday, May 9, 2008

Frugal Friday: Financial Goals

Are you setting financial goals for yourself each month? Each quarter? Each year? It's been studied and proven many times over that if you will WRITE DOWN YOUR GOALS you will be more likely to achieve them.

Earlier this year I set a goal of accelerating the payoff of our mortgage. My husband received a raise at the end of December that netted us $65 per month so we started putting that money on the principle of the mortgage each month. Then in March I saw that the interest rate on a 15 year mortgage had dropped to below 5% so I contacted a local mortgage broker about doing a refinance. We had a 30 year mortgage fixed at 5.75% so we didn't have a bad deal to begin with. About 2 weeks ago we completed the refinance and are now the proud owners of a 15 year mortgage fixed at 4.875%. Yes, it raised our monthly payment by about $200 per month but we will save tens of thousands of dollars on interest and will have the mortgage paid off so much sooner. We hope to be able to accelerate this mortgage, too...maybe next year we can start that depending on our finances.

My next goal is to shop around for better prices on insurance (car, home, and life). We are currently spending about $300 per month total on all three of those insurance policies and I think I can reduce that without compromising the levels of coverage we have. Speaking of insurance, do you have adequate life insurance? Even if you are a stay-at-home mom? Think about what it would cost to "replace" you as a mom if your family were to lose you. In my case, my husband would want to continue to homeschool so he would need a nanny/tutor for our kids. That's pretty expensive! And make sure you are getting the best value for your money by buying term insurance and not whole life.

One financial goal I have for this year is to start making money through some sort of home business. I've got several ideas I'm working on right now and am planning to use some of our stimulus check to pay the start up costs. When I decide exactly what I'm going to pursue I'll let ya'll know.

So what are your financial goals? What are you doing to achieve them?

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Rising chicken and pork prices

I read an article this morning (click here) about rising prices for chicken and pork. I have already been trying to reduce my family's food budget by making more vegetarian meals. I'm not really in a position living in the city to raise my own meat. But I COULD raise chickens for the eggs. I've been seriously considering this one for a while now. I just need to find a spot in my yard that would be legal for that. A chicken coop has to be a certain distance away from my neighbors and I'm afraid that the only place that would qualify is where the kids' playground is situated. If I can find a spot for it, I can have up to 4 hens on my quarter acre of land in the middle of the suburbs. Not a bad deal! We've been getting eggs for free on and off from a friend whose children are raising chickens. They just have too many eggs for their family to eat and hate to see them go to waste. I could really give my children great hormone-free protein by feeding them eggs we raise ourselves. I also want to look into raising some vegetables but I think that might be more than I can handle right now. We have horrible clay in the ground and I think I'd have to do raised beds in order to get anything to grow. We do have peach trees and end up with a TON of peaches every year. That sure does help the budget.

So, aside from coupons and rebates is there anything else you are doing or are willing to do to bring down your food budget? How far will we need to go?

Economic Stimulus Checks (again!)

I wrote a while back about Kroger and Sears offering an extra 10% if you bring in your check and convert it into a gift card. I recently found out that Albertson's is also offering this deal and that at least for Kroger and Albertson's that you don't actually have to bring in your check. You just have to buy a gift card in $300 increments. I'm considering doing it at Kroger since we do a fair amount of our shopping there anyway but I'd only buy $300 worth. We are expecting $2100 and I sure didn't want to commit that much to Kroger!

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Load Up the Pantry

I read this interesting article in the Wall Street Journal the other day. I've already been doing this for a long time even though friends (and sometimes family) make fun of me. That's OK. I don't mind being laughed at. I'm just doing my job -- stretching the dollars that my husband earns to support our family.

Load Up The Pantry
by Brett Arends
Wednesday, April 23, 2008

I don't want to alarm anybody, but maybe it's time for Americans to start stockpiling food.

No, this is not a drill.

You've seen the TV footage of food riots in parts of the developing world. Yes, they're a long way away from the U.S. But most foodstuffs operate in a global market. When the cost of wheat soars in Asia, it will do the same here.

Reality: Food prices are already rising here much faster than the returns you are likely to get from keeping your money in a bank or money-market fund. And there are very good reasons to believe prices on the shelves are about to start rising a lot faster.

"Load up the pantry," says Manu Daftary, one of Wall Street's top investors and the manager of the Quaker Strategic Growth mutual fund. "I think prices are going higher. People are too complacent. They think it isn't going to happen here. But I don't know how the food companies can absorb higher costs." (Full disclosure: I am an investor in Quaker Strategic)

Stocking up on food may not replace your long-term investments, but it may make a sensible home for some of your shorter-term cash. Do the math. If you keep your standby cash in a money-market fund you'll be lucky to get a 2.5% interest rate. Even the best one-year certificate of deposit you can find is only going to pay you about 4.1%, according to And those yields are before tax.

Meanwhile the most recent government data shows food inflation for the average American household is now running at 4.5% a year.

And some prices are rising even more quickly. The latest data show cereal prices rising by more than 8% a year. Both flour and rice are up more than 13%. Milk, cheese, bananas and even peanut butter: They're all up by more than 10%. Eggs have rocketed up 30% in a year. Ground beef prices are up 4.8% and chicken by 5.4%.

These are trends that have been in place for some time.

And if you are hoping they will pass, here's the bad news: They may actually accelerate.

The reason? The prices of many underlying raw materials have risen much more quickly still. Wheat prices, for example, have roughly tripled in the past three years.

Sooner or later, the food companies are going to have to pass those costs on. Kraft saw its raw material costs soar by about $1.25 billion last year, squeezing profit margins. The company recently warned that higher prices are here to stay. Last month the chief executive of General Mills, Kendall Powell, made a similar point.

The main reason for rising prices, of course, is the surge in demand from China and India. Hundreds of millions of people are joining the middle class each year, and that means they want to eat more and better food.

A secondary reason has been the growing demand for ethanol as a fuel additive. That's soaking up some of the corn supply.

You can't easily stock up on perishables like eggs or milk. But other products will keep. Among them: Dried pasta, rice, cereals, and cans of everything from tuna fish to fruit and vegetables. The kicker: You should also save money by buying them in bulk.

If this seems a stretch, ponder this: The emerging bull market in agricultural products is following in the footsteps of oil. A few years ago, many Americans hoped $2 gas was a temporary spike. Now it's the rosy memory of a bygone age.

The good news is that it's easier to store Cap'n Crunch or cans of Starkist in your home than it is to store lots of gasoline. Safer, too.

Write to Brett Arends at

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Albertson's and Yoplait Yogurt

I've already put everything in the fridge so no picture this time.

I got 3 packages (4 containers in each) of the Yo-Plus yogurt and 8 containers of regular Yoplait yogurt. My total before discounts was $10. I had $1 off coupons for each of the Yo-Plus packages and had accidentally let my regular yogurt coupons expire YESTERDAY. I hate it when I do that! Albertson's is running a deal where you get $3 off at the register for spending $10 on Yoplait products so I ended up spending only $4 out of pocket for that yogurt. Hopefully that will last at least a week. My 3 girls sure can go through a lot of yogurt!

I might go back Tuesday and get some more of the regular containers of yogurt even though I don't have any coupons. Even without coupons I can get 20 containers for 35 cents each after the discount at the register. That's cheaper than the generic store brand.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

CVS Deals for the week of 4-13 to 4-19

It was a pretty slow week for me and shopping. I'm just feeling exhausted lately -- probably because I'm slowly approaching the end of this pregnancy and I don't sleep well. I just can't get comfortable. I figure it's just preparation for the lack of sleep I'll be dealing with pretty soon when I've got a nursing baby up every 2 hours all night long.

ANYWAY...I did make it to CVS this evening but I haven't even brought the stuff in from the van yet so I don't have any pictures. Here's what I got --

2 packages CVS diapers (size 1, 44 count each) -- $8.99 (buy 1 get 1 free)
CVS dental floss -- $2.99
2 bottles VO5 shampoo -- $1.32
2 bottles VO5 conditioner -- $1.32

Coupons -- $3 off $10 CVS brand
$5 extra care bucks

Cash out of pocket -- $7.32
Earned $1 ECB (for dental floss)

Like I said -- it was a slow week for me at CVS but I figure spending less than $8 out of pocket and getting that many diapers was a pretty good deal for me this week.

I have plans tomorrow to head over to Albertson's and take advantage of the Yoplait yogurt deal. If you buy $10 worth of Yoplait you will get $3 off automatically at the register. I have a bunch of Yoplait coupons that I'll be using so I'll let you know what kind of deal I'm able to get late tomorrow evening.

Friday, April 18, 2008

A funny about the tax rebates

My dad forwarded this to me so any complaints can be directed to him.

What are you planning to do with your "tax rebate" check?? The government wants you to spend it to help stimulate the economy. OK...but what should you spend it on so that the AMERICAN economy will be stimulated?

Now, if we spend that money at Wal-Mart, all the money will go to China. If we spend it on computers, most of the money will go to Korea or India.

If we spend it on gasoline it will all go to the Arabs (or Hugo Chavez in Venezuela) .... and none of these scenarios will help the American economy.

We need to keep that money here in America the only way to keep that money here at home is to drink beer, gamble, or spend it on prostitution. Currently it seems that these are the only businesses still left in the U.S.

I'm embarrassed to post this, but it's funny!

As you probably know from reading my posts I am a big fan of Dave Ramsey. We have been on Dave's plan for years now and are living debt-free except for our mortgage. We pay cash (or use the debit card) for everything except gasoline. With the prices of gas we have decided that it works better FOR US to carry a gas card that we can only use at one brand of station. It's worked well for us because there are lots of those stations in our area and on my husband's regular route to work. This way we don't have to carry the cash for gas (it costs about $75 to fill the van and about $35 to fill his car) and we don't have to worry about overdoing it on the debit card in a given week at the gas station.

Here's the embarrassing/funny part. We also still have a card with Citibank that we use online only. I understand and agree with Dave Ramsey regarding the evils of credit cards in any form. I prefer them online because of the consumer protection they give me. I also use this one card for paying my utility bills automatically each month. Then on the date that the bill for the credit card is due I have them automatically debit my checking account for the full amount of the bill. This way we are never late and we never pay interest. The bonus is that we earn cash back on our purchases with that card -- and the utility payments garner a higher percentage than regular purchases. Since we don't have an annual fee or interest charges this actually is cash in our pocket. Well, I noticed the other day that when I opened the bookmark on my computer for the Citibank website that Dave's face was staring back at me! When I pull down my bookmarks many of them have little icons next to them. Like eBay has that little eBay symbol next to it and Yahoo has the big red "Y" next to it. Well, Dave's bookmark has his smiling face looking back at me and all of a sudden so does my Citibank link! I wonder what Citibank would think about that if they knew! I know Dave would get a good laugh out of it -- and he'd also chastise me for still having and using a credit card.

So there's my embarrassing/funny story for the day.

One more thought on the stimulus checks...

I just realized something......we are going to get our stimulus check via direct deposit so we wouldn't be able to convert it into a gift card even if we wanted to. I wonder what Sears and Kroger would say about that? Could I bring them a copy of my bank account statement showing the direct deposit and give them the cash for the amount of the check to get the gift card with the bonus? Now this is getting a little too complicated even for my taste.

Plus, if we were getting our check in the mail it wouldn't even be sent out from the IRS until July 11 (according to the IRS website). I don't know if Kroger has a deadline for their offer but Sears says theirs is good from May 14 until July 19. That's really pushing it for me -- trusting the IRS to mail on time and trusting the post office to deliver (to MY house, not my neighbor's house) promptly.'s getting a little too complicated.

Kroger wants your stimulus check

I got this from The Consumerist earlier today -- Kroger will add 10% to your stimulus check if you convert it into a Kroger gift card. So if you are expecting to receive $600 next month they will give you a gift card worth $660. Apparently Sears is offering the same thing. I'm always leery about gift cards, especially in such large amounts. Have you been reading lately about stores filing for bankruptcy and not honoring gift cards? How about gift cards with expiration dates? And what about the ones that charge you a "small monthly fee" each month you don't have any activity on them? Granted, if you were planning to use your stimulus check to buy a new refrigerator or washing machine at Sears anyway you probably don't have anything to lose by converting the check to a Sears gift card and then turning around and using it for your pre-planned purchase.

My family is expecting a check for $2100 next month. I don't think we are going to convert it to a Kroger gift card even though we could then eliminate that line from our budget for a very long time. I'd worry about what would happen if I LOST that card. That's just too much money to have tied up in one place, especially considering our usual spending habits. Even though it seems like we do most of our regular grocery shopping at Kroger, we only spent $1400 there in all of 2007. In the "grocery" category of our budget we spent a total of $2500 in all of 2007. That includes all grocery-type shopping (and coupons) at Target, WalMart, Kroger, Albertson's, Tom Thumb, and CVS.

So take these offers made by Sears and Kroger with a grain of salt. And remember...if you have credit card debt you are MUCH better off putting this check onto those debts than going out and spending more money.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Happy Birthday Papa!!!

Happy 81st birthday to our beloved Pope Benedict XVI and prayers for many more happy and healthy years.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Frugality and Breastfeeding

When people talk about how expensive it is to have a baby I often wonder if part of that "expense" that they are talking about is Artificial Baby Milk, also known as formula. When I had my first child almost 7 years ago I was determined to breastfeed her for many reasons; the 2 main reasons were that breastmilk is better for the baby than formula and it's cheaper. My frugality played a large role in my determination to continue breastfeeding even when we had latch problems and my baby was slow to gain. After 3 children we have determined that my babies simply gain weight slowly, though...that's apparently normal for them. It's a slow gain but it is steady and that's all that matters. To look at them now (almost ages 7, 5, and 3) you would never be able to tell that they were on the small side for a long time.

In addition to breastmilk being free it's also convenient. You never have to fix bottles before leaving the house or make sure you've measured out the powder and brought enough water with you. If you get stuck in traffic or an airport or a natural disaster you don't have to worry about not being able to feed your baby. Those images on television after Hurricane Katrina of mothers and their starving babies still break my heart -- if they had been breastfeeding then those babies wouldn't have been so hungry.

What's sad is that so many people are opposed to breastfeeding. Why? It's the way that God intended babies to be fed. And if you don't have a belief in God, then it's the way that "mother nature" intended babies to be fed. Why do you think the human race has continued as long as it has? Breastfeeding. No dairy cows required to feed your baby. You could easily be a nomadic tribe and still feed the babies.

What's also sad is that so many people are opposed to breastfeeding in public. Here in Texas we are lucky that there is a state law backing up our right to nurse our children in any location in which we are welcome ourselves. And the way I understand the law, breastfeeding is not a reason to declare us "unwelcome". For example, if I am sitting on a bench at the mall and am welcome to do so as a customer, then the mall can't ask me to leave BECAUSE I started breastfeeding. If I was welcome in the first place then I am still welcome.

Why do so many people think that we shouldn't breastfeed in public? Trust me -- the vast majority of us do so as discreetly as possible. My babies didn't have a problem with a light blanket over them but some babies do. So don't always expect a woman to use a blanket. Most of the time the most you will see (if you are inclined to STARE) is the top of a breast. How is that different from the girls falling out of their tops at the mall or the beach? How is that different from the pictures on the covers of the magazines at the grocery store checkout? Or on the posters in the window of Victoria's Secret? And please don't get me started on the idea of asking a mother to go to the restroom to feed her baby in private. Do you want to eat your lunch in the restroom? I didn't think so.

I got this link to a blog on Craig's List from a friend of mine. Here's the text of it. It's an awesome thing to read. I wish more people felt this way.

Date: 2006-11-21, 10:07PM PST

I happened to be on an Airplane from Shrevesport two weeks ago. Those tend to be small and crowded.

I sat next to a young lady, perhaps 20 or so. She was carrying a small child, who was quite unhappy with the pressure changes and all.

She got up several times to go to the bathroom, each time I had to rise to let her out. I knew she was comforting the child, I even asked her if she wished the aisle seat.

She blushed and said she preferred the inside seat. The flight got a little rough, the seat belt light came on along with a warning from the Captain, and he wasn't kidding, it got very rough.

She looked quite miserable, the child was crying. The ears of the very young are quite sensitive, they have not learned to compensate so nursing is very beneficial at times like that.

When the flight began to calm I mentioned to her that it was all right to comfort her child at her seat, I did not mind.

She smiled and thanked me, I suppose the fact that I am obviously a bit grandfatherly relaxed her. So she did, I simply read my book. Several around noticed but none took offense.

One funny thing, the steward came by, a young man of perhaps 30 or so, bringing soft drinks. This was after things had settled down a bit.

She was asleep, as was the child. It had a solid locklip on her breast, both were quite content. He asked me if my daughter wanted anything, I got some Orange juice for her and set it on her tray.

She woke up soon after, drank it and thanked me. I even got to hold the child for awhile, a wonderful feeling bringing back some memories of my youth and my own children. I confess to a small tear in my eyes at touching a hand nearly as small as my index finger.

Perhaps my being much older makes a difference, but breastfeeding is a wonderful thing to see. Even as a male, a tiny child pressing to my chest feels just fine.

Look down on it all you wish, those who do are fools. Women should feed their children as nature intended, they will be stronger and healthier as a result.

I see nothing wrong with it, if bashful or in a highly public place, a simple blanket will suffice. If not, that does not matter, it did not for the young lady sharing a long trip with me.

My wife nursed ours until they turned to solid foods, often in public. Not one time did anyone say anything.

It might be time for some to rub a bit of the blue off their noses, this is a very silly thing to take any offense at. Courtesy would dictate that we simply go on our way and let the young mothers be. It is just nature at work.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Really Cheap Reading

Check out these great deals from Publication Station. This is where I asmost always get my magazine subscriptions. You can do a new subscription or a renewal. Just be sure to put the coupon code in at checkout. Happy Reading!!

***edited on 4-14-08
Looks like at least the Rachael Ray one isn't working. You have to be quick with this company or the codes expire.

Family Fun magazine only $3.00/yr with coupon code MD08

ImageCoupon code box is located at the top of the screen after clicking "CHECKOUT".

Family Fun's goal is for parents to enhance the time spent with their children. A typical issue explores learning activities, vacation planning, travel tips, and reviews of children's books, videos, and music.

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Weight Watchers Magazine only $4.95/yr with coupon code MD08

ImageCoupon code box is located at the top of the screen after clicking "CHECKOUT".

This magazine is edited for women committed to change and seeking a healthy lifestyle. It delivers advice on health, fitness, fashion, beauty and food

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Garden Design Magazine only $5.10/yr with coupon code MD08

ImageCoupon code box is located at the top of the screen after clicking "CHECKOUT".

Garden Design speaks to a new generation of style-conscious enthusiasts. Garden Design blurs traditional boundaries, bringing interior design outdoors and inviting the garden inside. It is the definitive source on down-to-earth luxury and style.

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Everyday with Rachael Ray magazine only $4.95/yr with coupon code MD08

ImageCoupon code box is located at the top of the screen after clicking "CHECKOUT".

A magazine for smart entertaining, delicious food and spur of the moment travel. In every issue you'll find 30-minute meals, Rachael's Diary, small party gatherings for special occasions, stolen weekends, Real Cooks Networks, Every Day Menu Planner, the No Recipe Zone & much more!

Click here for Everyday with Rachael Ray

Thursday, April 3, 2008

Just some more reasons why we homeschool

Did you read about the 3rd graders in Georgia who were caught plotting to knock out, handcuff, and stab their teacher? Of course, psychiatrists have stated that it is unlikely that children that young seriously intended to hurt anyone. So why did they bring a crystal paperweight, a steak knife with a broken handle, steel handcuffs and other items as part of last week's plot if they didn't actually intend to use them? You can read more about the story here. To me, it doesn't matter whether they actually would have gone through with the attack or not. What matters is that they went beyond just talking about it as if it were an imaginary story to actually bringing weapons to school. What makes such a young child act that way??

The other day I read the report about the plummeting graduation rates in school districts across the country. In my local newspaper they listed the rates for some local districts as well as other districts across the state. While my district wasn't listed (it's very small) the district next door was on the list. It actually has over a 62% graduation rate and is higher than 5 major metropolitan areas in the state. (Of course, they still shouldn't be "proud" of the fact that 38% of students drop out.) The local newspaper online opened this article up for comments from readers and one person said that this was one reason why so many people homeschool now even though that's a farce, too, because of the lack of oversight. Excuse me? Why would I want the state or local school districts to have any oversight power when they can't even get their students graduating at a high rate? I am so thankful to live in Texas where homeschools are considered legally to be private schools and are not subject to state control. That freedom has allowed us to pursue homeschooling the way we want to, not necessarily the way the state would have us do it. So far, we have been successful and in the end that's what matters to us.

And speaking of graduation/drop out rates......could these abysmal numbers have something to do with the lack of options available to high school students? Whatever happened to vocational training in schools? Not all students are college-bound and there's nothing wrong with that. It would be really nice, though, if the schools could offer more options for training and apprenticeships in hands-on fields so as to prepare students for work after graduation if that's the route they wish to pursue. When my mom was in high school (mid to late 1960's) she went down the "work path" instead of the "college path" and took classes in typing and shorthand. Those helped prepare her for a job in the secretarial field right out of school. What are high school graduates qualified to do after graduation these days? Flip burgers? Check groceries? What about setting them up in apprenticeships during school to get them some training in a field they are interested in so that they can actually work and support themselves? If as a country we pursued this angle we might not be losing so many manufacturing jobs overseas. Maybe we could actually have the opportunity to buy products "Made in the USA".

Saturday, March 22, 2008

CVS Deals for the week of 3-16 to 3-22

It was a pretty good week for me at CVS even though I'm frustrated about not being able to find ANY store in my area with the vitamins, toothpaste, or razors on the shelves. I think maybe they stock the shelves at the first of the month and then never stock them again. But that's a discussion for another day.

The first picture above includes diapers, diaper cream, 5 Johnson's Buddies Easy Grip Soap, 5 mouth washes, toothpaste, 3 deodorants, and 6 bottles of shampoo. The second picture is 2 boxes of Hershey's Pot Of Gold candy, 2 bags of jelly beans, 2 packages of large plastic eggs, 3 chocolate bunnies, and 4 Russell Stover Cream Eggs.

Cost before coupons -- $75.05
Coupons & Extra Care Bucks -- $68.10
Out of pocket cost -- $6.95
Extra Bucks issued for future use -- $25.94

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

IRS Rebate Checks

Without getting into whether or not I think these checks are a good idea or whether they scream "socialism"............ here's some information for you on whether you are getting a check, how much it will be, and when you can expect to receive it.

First, go to the IRS website's calculator and input some numbers from your 2007 tax forms. This will calculate the amount of your tax rebate.

Next, go to the IRS Payment Schedule to see when you can expect your check. If you requested direct deposit for your 2007 tax refund you will receive this money electronically, too. If you owed money to the IRS but still gave them account information for direct deposit "just in case" you should receive the rebate in that bank account. Otherwise you will receive your check in the mail.

There is a section here for frequently asked questions in case you need more information.

Lastly, please please please! If you have high-interest credit card debt give some serious thought to using this money to pay that down or pay it off. And most importantly -- DON'T SPEND THE MONEY BEFORE IT ARRIVES! Don't go out and charge that big screen TV with surround sound knowing that you will be able to pay the bill when the check arrives. That's just begging Murphy (of "Murphy's law fame) to move into your guest bedroom.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Cheap Veggie Tales

Check this out! You can get a Veggie Tales DVD for just the cost of shipping. Go here and see the ones that are on sale for less than $10. Then use coupon code WIZ to get $10 off your order. I got "An Easter Carol" for only $3.63 shipped. Thanks to Mir at Want Not for this info!

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Savings on cereal

I was able to get in on the deals at Albertson's last week (sale actually ends today but I'm out of coupons now!). For every $10 you spent on certain products you got $2 off automatically at the register. Included in this list was several types of Post cereal. So I was able to get 9 boxes of Honey Bunches of Oats and 2 boxes of Honeycomb cereal for a total of $3 out of pocket!

It took me two trips to Albertson's because the first store didn't have enough boxes available for me to use all my coupons. But it was worth it since the stores are fairly close to my house and I was already passing by them on other errands.

My kids are thrilled! They love Honey Bunches of Oats but don't get it very often because it's expensive. And I don't think they've ever had Honeycomb cereal. That will certainly be a treat for them!

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Apparently it stinks to be two years old

So Olivia was playing with Rebecca's purse and I suggested to Rebecca that she might not want to let Olivia do that considering Olivia is likely to dump all the money out of it and probably tear it up into pieces. So Rebecca took it away and Olivia cried.

Olivia : "Where's my purse?"
Me: "You don't have a purse with money like Rebecca because Rebecca is 6 and you're 2."
Olivia : (Screaming at me in her best 2-year-old-defiant voice) "I'm not 2!"
Me: "Yes, you are. I know -- I was there when you were born."
Olivia: "No!! I'm not 2! You're 2!!"

So instead of turning 35 last week, I guess I turned 2. Or at least I did in her little world.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

Short Term Financial Goals

Do you have any short term goals for your finances? I'm not one to make New Years Resolutions so I don't say things like "I'm going to get out of debt this year" or "I'm going to cut my grocery budget this year". I do, however, make small financial goals from time to time. Those big ones that so many people make at New Years are just too broad for me -- I need to be more specific.

Since we are following Dave Ramsey's baby steps, I use those as a guideline. Late last year we were ready to move to step 5 -- invest 15% of your income into retirement. It took me a few months of procrastinating before I finally did it. I contacted one of the Endorsed Local Providers (ELPs) found on Dave's website and talked with him about opening a ROTH IRA for my husband. We had been setting some money aside each month while we researched our investment options and in November we wrote a check for the initial investment. Then we set up an automatic draft every month for 8% of our income so that we wouldn't have an excuse to not follow through. We only did 8% because we are already investing 7% of his paychecks in his retirement through work.

The next step on Dave's list is number 6 -- pay off your mortgage early. I would LOVE to be able to do this in 7-8 years but that's unrealistic. Well, I could do it if we stopped putting money into all our various savings accounts each paycheck but then we wouldn't have that money available to use for those different categories. (I use savings accounts as a sort of "envelope system" and will write about that later today or tomorrow.) If we suspended all that savings each month and put the money on our mortgage instead we would be able to pay it off in about 8 years. So my goal last month was to figure out how much extra I could realistically put on the mortgage. That's a really tough question! My husband works for a local municipality that gives merit raises every year on the anniversary of your hire date. For him that's sometime in December. So what we did this year was take the difference between his paycheck in November and his paycheck in January and pledge to send the that amount to the mortgage company as an extra principle payment. That's only about $65 a month because we had an increase in our dental insurance costs this year starting in January that offset much of his raise. But it's better than nothing! Each month I already have the mortgage payment set up as an automatic draft from our checking account. The day after that payment goes through I go to the website and manually make an extra principle payment of $65. There's no charge for this as long as I do it within 10 days of the due date.

We would love to commit to putting all extra windfalls on our mortgage but we can't seem to bring ourselves to do that right now. There are always other things we'd rather do with the money, like buy a new sofa or pay for music classes for the kids. We just signed a gas lease for our mineral rights and got a bonus check. It's sitting in the bank earning interest right now instead of being sent to the mortgage company. I need to really evaluate these sorts of windfalls for the future, though. I know that my parents we able to pay off their mortgage early through windfalls like that. Those are some thoughts for another day.

Like I said, our goals are small right now but we're making progress and can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Are all lenders inherently predatory?

There was an article in the Dallas Morning News yesterday about how Mesquite, Texas (a suburb of Dallas) is limiting where check-cashing businesses and payday lenders may open shop. The city's argument is that "they hurt economic development in areas where too many of them cluster." I can't blame the city for making this decision -- have you ever driven through a neighborhood where there are lots of these types of businesses? More often than not it's a blighted area of town where other businesses don't want to open because it doesn't appear to be "economically viable".

This got me thinking, though. It's hard to argue that payday loan businesses and check cashing businesses that charge such huge interest rates aren't inherently predatory. In days past these types of businesses were called "loan sharks" and were illegal. Now they operate out in the open in our strip malls with no fear of arrest and prosecution. In a way, many credit card companies are no different. They often charge exorbitant fees and high interest rates. Take a look at your credit card contract and you'll see what I'm talking about. There are fees for making a late payment. There are annual fees for the "privledge" of using the credit card in the first place. There is "universal default" where the credit card company retains the right to raise your interest rate if you are late on ANY other credit obligation even if you have never been late on that card. There is an "over limit" fee for when you go beyond your limit.

WHAT? How do you go beyond your spending limit? Isn't a "limit" defined as a maximum allowed? Whatever happened to charges being denied because it would put you over the limit? Well, apparently credit card companies have found that their customers would rather pay an over the limit fee than be embarrassed at the point of sale by having their purchases declined.
Then it starts to snowball on you -- you pay the fee every single month that your balance is over the limit. If you are making only minimum payments it's very likely that the payment won't be enough to cover the interest and that fee; therefore you will still be over the limit, especially if you continue to charge on the card. Do you see the vicious cycle in which you will soon find yourself? And that credit card company will be happy to do all it can to keep you in that predatory cycle.

What about mortgages? On the surface, I would say that mortgages are the only kind of debt I might consider classifying as "good". If course, this assumes that you have not taken out a mortgage for more than you can afford to realistically pay. Back in the days before and immediately after the depression banks often called in their mortgage loans and demanded payment in full immediately. That's what ruined many families. Today, however, there is legislation that prevents banks from doing that; they can't call in your mortgage before the term is up (typically 15 or 30 years). So everything's great, right? Not necessarily. What happens when you get behind on your mortgage? They will require you to "catch up" in one lump sum and won't even accept a partial payment. And the interest is still accruing along the way. If you get far enough behind they will start foreclosure proceedings and sell your house. I don't know that I would call any of these things predatory, though. I do know that leading customers into sub prime high-interest rate mortgages is predatory. There used to be a day and time when banks felt like it was alright to decline to write a mortgage for someone because they didn't have enough of a down payment or couldn't show their ability to repay the mortgage. Now it's almost like banks are afraid of hurting our feelings! They seem willing to write a mortgage for pretty much anyone as long as the interest rate is high enough. Unfortunately for them (and indirectly for the rest of us) banks are being bitten in the behind for these practices and the term "short sale" has become a common phrase in our vocabularies.

The bottom line? Get rid of all your debt as quickly as you possibly can, including your mortgage. It's all a noose around your neck just waiting to be tightened. No, mortgages aren't as bad as other credit options, but it's best to remember that if you lay down with snakes you shouldn't be surprised to way up bitten.

Saturday, March 1, 2008

One more "Super Savings Saturday" Item!

My hubby needed to go to Target tonight for some storage boxes so the kids and I tagged along. I was able to use 2 of the $1 off coupons for Johnson's Buddies and get the bar soap for better than free (they were $0.94 and the coupon came off in full so Target paid me $.06 each to take those off their hands). I also used 15 of the string cheese coupons and got another 30 packages for free. I was able to get the overage on the Johnson's Buddies because I rang up the groceries along with his boxes instead of doing the order separately. I'm not sure the computer would have allowed me the overage if I hadn't had something else to offset it. So tonight I MADE $0.12 at Target!

We just won't talk about how much his storage boxes cost. :)

Super Savings Saturday

Head on over to Money Saving Mom for lots more stories about the great deals people are getting this week. I haven't done much shopping this week and didn't take a picture of what I did get but I will go ahead and list it for you here.

I went to Super Target a few days ago because it's the only store in my area (besides CVS) that I KNOW takes internet coupons. It's with great sadness that I must report that my local Kroger stores won't accept them. So here's what I got at Target --

3 bags Flat Earth Chips -- $1.99 each -- total of $5.97
8 cartons Archer Farms Yogurt -- $0.52 each -- total of $4.16
1 box of Whole Grain Pop Tarts -- $1.67
2.76 pounds of bananas -- $0.52 per pound -- total of $1.44
2 gallons Market Pantry milk -- $3.49 each -- total of $6.98
8 individual string cheeses -- $0.24 each -- total of $1.92

Here are the coupons I used --

Manufacturer coupon for Flat Earth Chips (3 of them) -- $5.97
Target coupon for Pop Tarts -- $0.50
Manufacturer coupon for Pop Tarts -- $0.50
Target coupon for Bananas -- $0.50
Target coupon for string cheese (4 of them) -- $1.92

So I left Target spending a total of $12.75 out of pocket. My total before the coupons was $22.14. However, I don't really feel right saying that I was able to save 42% on my groceries at Target this week because I wouldn't have bought the chips or the Pop Tarts unless I had those coupons.

That's a dilemma I have every time I go to the grocery store and look at the receipt. At Kroger they will tell you "you saved $xx.xx using your Kroger Plus card" and I always want to point out to them, "No, I SPENT $yy.yy out of my grocery budget today." But I never do that because most of the cashiers would just look at me funny. I know that they are supposed to tell each customer that so I just let it go.