Friday, February 29, 2008

Barack Obama and the Culture of Death

I didn't watch too much of the Democratic debate the other night, mainly because I find that very few candidates actually answer questions that they are asked. It drives me batty! I'd like to say that I was surprised to read the following about Barack Obama today but I already knew that he doesn't share my pro-life views:

In [Wednesday] night's debate between Senator Barack Obama and Senator Hillary Clinton, MSNBC moderator Tim Russert asked both presidential candidates whether there was "any word or vote that you'd like to take back" in your "careers in public service." Senator Obama cited his role in a unanimous decision by the U.S. Senate regarding the Terry Schiavo case. He said it was "a mistake" for the Congress "to interject itself into that decision-making process of the families" to settle her fate.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue addressed this issue today:

"So now we know that Obama thinks it was a mistake-the biggest mistake he's ever made in public life-to allow Schiavo's parents the right to petition a federal court over the withdrawal of food and medical services necessary to save her life. Never mind that the vote was merely procedural: it simply allowed the patient's parents the right to ask for federal review, never guaranteeing a particular outcome. Moreover, the bill was case specific-it had no bearing on any case other than Schiavo's, and it explicitly said that ‘nothing in this Act shall constitute a precedent with respect to future legislation.' Yet Obama now says his vote ‘was not something I was comfortable with, but it was not something that I stood on the floor and stopped.' How revealing.

"Just as important as what Obama said is what he didn't say: He could have taken the opportunity to say that the biggest blunder of his career in public life was his vote to kill a bill in the Illinois legislature that would have provided medical care for infants who survive abortions. In 2003, while chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee of the Illinois Senate, he led the fight to oppose a bill that would have mandated health care for a baby who survived an abortion, and he did so even though the bill explicitly said it would not imperil Roe v. Wade.

"In conclusion, Senator Obama thinks it is none of the federal government's business to allow doctors to intentionally starve a person to death, nor is it the law's business to require doctors to attend to the health care of a fully born baby who has survived an abortion. All this from the Minister of Hope."

"Minister of Hope"??? I don't think so. I'm sure not a fan of Senator Clinton but Senator Obama scares me even more. What worries me the most about the upcoming election are two things. First, national security. I want a president who will keep us safe from terrorist attacks and criminal illegal immigrants. Second, the Supreme Court. I'm very concerned about the fact that the next president could very likely be called upon to appoint 3, 4, or even 5 new justices to the Supreme Court during his or her first term as president. That gives this president the potential to change the makeup of the court and therefore the direction of this country. Truly scary. At this point all we can really do (aside from voting, of course) is pray.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Frugal First Communion Dress

I know these pictures are pretty small -- sorry about that! I just wanted to show that you can find a BEAUTIFUL dress for a child's First Communion or a wedding or Easter or Christmas by looking on eBay. I got to thinking that I would need to buy my oldest daughter a dress for her First Communion next year and I thought I'd start looking at the end of the season when they go on sale. I found out these dresses retail for anywhere from $80 to $120 and sometimes even more! I can't imagine spending that much on a dress for just one day for my 7 year old. I found this dress on eBay for only $25 including shipping! The best part is that all of my daughters will be able to wear it when it comes time for their First Communions -- sort of like a family heirloom baptismal gown!

This morning I read on Money Saving Mom about a great idea -- renting dresses and suits for your little ones! Check out for more information. Many of the ladies over at Money Saving Mom said they had used this company with great results. It sounds like a great idea!

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

File your taxes for FREE

Free....I think that's my favorite word in the English language!

There are a couple of ways you can file your federal taxes for free. One way that I've used in the past is to go to the IRS website and click on "use free file to prepare your taxes". That will take you through a series of questions to determine which company you can use to file for free. It's based on your income. One warning -- I've had problems with some of these companies in the past not calculating my taxes correctly. Sometimes one company will tell me I have a refund of $xx and another company will tell me I have a refund of $yy. How can that be when I input the same information?? So always double check your return to make sure everything looks right.

This year I was able to use Turbo Tax for free through State Farm. If you have insurance or a credit card with State Farm you can do your federal filing for free, too! Just go to State Farm's website and sign in. On the left side of the screen you will see where to click to file taxes for free. It was quick and easy for me! If you need to file state taxes I think you will have to pay for those. I live in Texas and we don't have a state income tax so I don't have to file with the state. After e-filing my federal taxes through Turbo Tax I received my refund (via direct deposit) in my savings account within 8 calendar days. Super fast!!

Monday, February 25, 2008

Selling online to declutter AND make money

I wouldn't exactly describe myself as a "packrat" but I definitely have a tendency to accumulate too much clutter around my house. There are lots of different ways that you can both get rid of the clutter and make a few extra dollars.

First, you can have a garage sale. This is A LOT of work, though. You've got to gather everything you want to sell into your garage so you can price it and sort it. Then you will need to put signs around your neighborhood and/or advertise in your local newspaper. Then you will have to give up at least a Saturday morning to actually hold the sale and deal with people trying to offer you 25 cents for your grandmother's china teacups. Garage sales can be very profitable but it really helps if you have large items for sale and live in a populated area that gets a lot of traffic. I've been very successful with garage sales in the past but now that I really don't have any big ticket items left to sell I haven't bothered with them in a while.

Another option is a "virtual garage sale" on Craig's List. You can list items for sale in your area of the country and have people either call or e-mail you if they are interested in them. Be sure to take good pictures of the item and price it just a little bit higher than the amount you'd like to get so that people can feel like they've gotten a good deal by negotiating. The downside to Craig's List is that you will have strangers coming to your house. Yes, you have that with a garage sale, too, but it seems more personal with Craig's List. Take standard safety precautions if you choose to sell this way. Maybe you can arrange to meet someone at a public location, like a park or a library. I've bought and sold on Craig's List in the past with success. However, be prepared for people to tell you that they are "on the way" to you house only to never show up.

Lastly, I have made lots of money over the years selling on eBay and I used to be a Pampered Chef consultant and when I quit I sold my samples and extra items on eBay. Books I tend to list on because I can leave them there as inventory instead of listing them in auction format and hoping that someone comes along in a week to buy them. Besides Pampered Chef items I have also sold baby clothes, children's toys, and miscellaneous household items on eBay. It started as a way to declutter my home of small items that I could easily ship. Over time I started scouring garage sales and estate sales for things that I could resell for a profit. I think one of my favorite deals was the Suzanne Somers Thigh Master that I bought at a garage sale for $1 and resold a few weeks later on eBay for $25 plus shipping. I have a friend who shops at Goodwill for items to resell and makes extra money for her family. Now that gasoline prices are so high I have to wonder if it's worth it for me to keep going to garage sales on Saturday mornings looking for things to resell. But it's definitely worth it to clean out your house and sell the items on eBay -- no gasoline involved except getting to the post office. And I've heard that you can have your regular mail carrier pick up your packages at your house although I've never tried that myself.

So what are you waiting for?? Start decluttering your house and find places to sell those unwanted items! And if you've gotten a great deal selling something I'd love to hear about it -- just post a comment and share with all of us!!

Check out Money Saving Mom for lots more ideas for Money Making Monday!

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Dave Ramsey ROCKS!

I was NOT fortunate enough to be able to attend Dave's live event in Dallas yesterday but I have friends who were there. I'm so excited for them -- getting on the "Dave Ramsey bandwagon"! If you've never heard of Dave Ramsey, you need to check out his website here. We learned about him many years ago when we read his book "Financial Peace". He's got a newer book called "The Total Money Makeover". If you're frugal like me you will want to see if your library carries them before you run out to Barnes and Noble. However, if you're anything like me you will want your own copy to keep before you're even done reading it for the first time. If that's the case, feel free to run out to B&N or check out, eBay, or a local used bookstore (my favorite is Half Price Books).

The basics of Dave's plan can be found on his website. They are the Seven Baby Steps. No, they don't ALWAYS make sense mathematically but Dave deals in reality. Reality says that you should start by paying off your smallest debt first regardless of the interest rate so that you can get excited about the progress that you are making. Mathematically you will likely be paying a very small amount of extra money by using this method. But trust me -- it's really exciting to write that LAST check to Citibank or Discover or your student loan lender. And then you have freed up that money each month to roll into your next smallest debt. Before you know it you're calling his show on a Friday afternoon screaming "I'm Debt Free!!!!!!!" I never called but I sure did scream in my own house! Yes, I'm very proud to be able to say that we are debt-free, except for out mortgage. In future posts I'll talk about how we did that and how we continue to stay debt-free while living on one income with a family of almost 6.

One more thing -- click here to find a local radio station that carries Dave's show. You can also see him nightly on the Fox Business Network. I wish *I* could see him there but we don't get that channel in our cable package and I refuse to pay extra for a higher level package for just one channel that I want. Yes, I know -- I'm sometimes too frugal!

Friday, February 22, 2008

CVS Deals week of Feb 17 - Feb 23

I am pretty new to the CVS deals and have learned sooooo much from reading Crystal's blog at Money Saving Mom. Thanks to her and her wonderful readers I was able to get a ton of stuff this week. CVS has Extra Care Bucks that they will give you to spend like cash in the store when you purchase certain items. I already had $16 of them from a previous deal and I needed to use them this week since they were scheduled to expire Saturday.

So here's everything I got this week --
2 packs of Huggies Newborn size diapers (40 per package) -- $17.98
6 packs of Huggies size 1 diapers (44 per package) -- $53.94
1 pack of Huggies size 2 diapers (48 per package) -- $8.99
2 packages Kotex Maxi Pads (16 per package) -- $5.00
4 bottles CVS brand Low Dose Chewable Aspirin -- $7.16
5 bottles Sambucol Elderberry Extract -- $64.95
1 package of Johnson's Q-Tips (500 count) -- $2.99
1 Valentine's Day bib for the new baby to wear next year -- $0.99

I didn't get everything in just one transaction or even on just one day. The first transaction I did was the "buy $30 and get $15 ECB". That was good on selected Kimberly Clark products and I got Huggies Diapers with that deal. From there the ECBs snowballed over each time and I was able to use manufacturer's coupons and ECBs to pay for much of my purchases. Including sales tax I did spend $23.70 out of pocket. I also will send for the Sambucol rebate and get $12.99 back from that. Additionally I have $26.79 in extra care bucks to use on future purchases.

I was most happy about the deal I got on diapers. I usually buy Target brand diapers but I couldn't pass up this deal to get some Huggies diapers for the new baby. I'll just store them until I need them later this spring and summer. Hopefully I can learn to keep the deals going at CVS and keep rolling those ECBs over each week.

Coupons after the holidays

There were a TON of coupon inserts in the papers after New Year's. I picked up one copy of the newspaper to see if there were any good ones and ended up going back to the store for more newspapers a few hours later. I think I ended up buying 6 newspapers that weekend! One of the best coupons in the paper that weekend was $2.25 off Electrasol dishwashing detergent. I had planned to wait until they went on sale at Kroger for $2.99 but I stumbled on a great deal at Target (while I was shopping for baby wipes!) that I couldn't pass up. They had an end cap display with the boxes of Electrasol on sale for 3/$8. That's about $2.67 each!! I've NEVER seen them that cheap before. Luckily I had my coupons with me (sometimes I just take the ones I know I'm going to use to the store) and was able to get 5 boxes for an out of pocket cost of only $2.05.

Huggies Deal at Target last month

My oldest daughter (age 6) likes to call me a "coupon queen". I'm not sure where she heard that phrase the first time but it's hilarious to hear her say it to me. So if you are a "coupon queen" like myself then you probably heard about this deal last month at Target for Huggies products, but I want to share what I was able to get anyway. Target had store coupons on their website for $1.50 off one Huggies Product. I combined that with manufacturer's coupons for Huggies wipes and bath products.
Here's the first deal -- 11 bottles of Huggies Head-To-Toe Baby Wash. They were $2.84 each before coupons. I used one Target coupon for $1.50 and one manufacturer's coupon for $1 on each bottle and was able to get them for $0.34 each. That's a total of $3.74 for all 11 bottles.

Here's the really big deal -- I got a total of 53 boxes of Huggies baby wipes! You can see that it took me a few shelves in my house to actually store all of them. I did the same deal on the wipes that I did with the baby wash -- store coupon combined with manufacturer's coupon. Without coupons the total cost was $125.47. After $79.50 in Target coupons and $35.50 in manufacturer's coupons I spent a total of $10.47 out of pocket. Some of the boxes have already been donated to the church nursery and many more will go to the women's shelter. I will still have enough to easily get me through the next year of diapers with my toddler and the new baby.

Last Month at Tom Thumb

Like I said before, I rarely shop at Tom Thumb. However, when I can find things on sale that will be free or close to free with coupons I will make a quick trip over there. Usually, though, their sale prices are higher than their competitors and quite often their true "loss leaders" can be found at Kroger as well so I just make one trip to Kroger instead of a trip to both stores.

A few weeks ago, though, I got a GREAT deal at Tom Thumb. Unfortunately I didn't take any pictures at the time and now everything is put away. So you'll just have to use your imagination.

They were having a deal where if you bought 5 packages of BallPark hot dogs you would get a coupon at the register for $10 off your next purchase. I went one day and bought just those hot dogs -- they were $2.50 per package. (I also had $1.98 remaining from some other deal on my Tom Thumb card so I only spent $10.52 out of pocket for the 5 packages of hot dogs. I went back a few days later and used the $10 coupon plus a manufacturer's coupon to get another 5 packages for a total out of pocket cost of $1.70. PLUS I earned another $10 off coupon. So I went back through the store one last time for some other groceries. Here's what I got:
6 cans (18 oz each) of Quaker Oats
1 jar Ragu Pasta Sauce
1 jar Skippy Natural Peanut Butter
4 boxes (18 bags per box) Bigelow Tea
After the sale prices, the manufacturer's coupons, and the $10 coupon from Tom Thumb I ended up spending 27 cents out of pocket on those items. Not a bad day at Tom Thumb!

Grocery Store Deals

So one of the things I'd like to do here is write about the great deals I've gotten at the store. I always share my great finds with my husband but he's almost come to expect it now. The enthusiasm is gone! He just knows that I will have a full pantry, fridge, and freezer waiting for him most days of the week despite the fact that my grocery budget for our family is about $50 per week (and that includes cleaning products and diapers). Now I have to say "most days" because right now I happen to be out of milk and until last night we were out of apples. What a crisis that was -- 2 whole days with no apples in the house and 3 hungry children looking for them! It did force them to get creative about their "snack time" and accept some of my other suggestions.

We are lucky to live in a very populated area with lots of grocery store choices as well as WalMart, Super Target, CVS, and Walgreen's within about a 5 mile radius of my house. I usually shop at Kroger because they will multiply coupons (both double and triple) but so do Tom Thumb and Albertson's. However, Tom Thumb will only multiply one coupon per transaction and Kroger will allow me either 3 or 4 -- I think it's 4 but I usually play it safe and only do 3 at a time. Albertson's multiplies and I don't know what their limit is since I only shop there for loss leaders infrequently. The down side to Kroger is that they will not accept internet coupons. For those I have to go to Target or CVS. BUT...I can combine internet generated manufacturer's coupons with store coupons at both of those stores so that can often save me a great deal of money.

So there's a shortened version of "Couponing 101" as I make it work for me. I'll explain some more details as we go along. Hopefully I will be able to show people that you don't have to spend a huge amount of time and effort saving money for your family. The time I do spend on it allows us to live comfortably on just one income while saving for other things we'd like to buy.

About Me

When I was a senior in high school my AP American History teacher called me a "radical conservative". At the time I didn't really understand what he meant since I identified myself as a liberal Democrat. Over the years, though, I have realized that he was exactly right; it just took me a while to embrace my "radical conservatism". I feel like I'm a good combination of both liberal and conservative, depending on the topic. I'd say I'm really more of an economic libertarian and a social conservative these days. And definitely FRUGAL and OPINIONATED. To be a homeschooling mother of "many" running a household on one income you almost can't survive without being frugal and opinionated!

So that's what this blog will be about -- my frugal and opinionated life. Pour yourself a cup of tea and come have a chat with me.