Monday, December 21, 2009

Pet Peeve of the Day

This pet peeve of mine has just been driving me nuts even more lately because I have been using cash to pay for all my Christmas gifts. I can't stand it when cashiers hand me back my change and my receipt all in one big handful without counting it back. It's even worse when they don't tell me how much change they think they are giving me and then immediately move on to the next customer. I know they are in a hurry and probably being timed by management, but I'm still standing there trying to count my change to make sure they gave me the right amount. Then I'm putting it in my wallet. Then, if I'm at a place like the grocery store or Target, I'm gathering up my bags while dodging the next customer's merchandise coming down the conveyor belt. In a way I understand those Visa commercials that show the happy symphony of customers sliding their credit cards through the machines and then someone paying cash holding up the line. But in the grand scheme of things I made more money for the store by paying them in cash than if I had used a debit or credit card because they didn't have to pay merchant fees. They also didn't have to wait for payment from a bank or worry about a check bouncing. So why do I feel like I'm treated with less respect because I paid with cash?

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Was the shopping trip a bust?

I went to Michael's with a 40% off coupon to get an American Girl book for Rebecca with the money my grandmother sent. Rebecca had almost $6 left in her envelope and that was just enough to pay for the book with the coupon. Michael's coupons aren't valid for books. It's in the fine print but I missed it. So no book for Rebecca. I went to Target to get bathrobes for each of the girls for Christmas. They only had extra small so I decided to wait until next week and try another Target store. Or maybe the website. So no bathrobes for the girls. At this point I'm empty handed and have spent about an hour out, including dealing with traffic. Then I decided to check out the shoe section at Target since I still had about $10 left for myself form the money my grandmother sent. I found a really cute pair of shoes that was on 50% off clearance for only $9.98. Of course I bought them. Now the question...can I consider a shopping trip that was intended to be for Christmas gifts for the girls a bust if all I came home with was a pair of shoes for myself?? I think not.

Friday, December 18, 2009

New discoveries I made this week

I know...I'm usually behind the times with most things. But I learned this week that Target brand milk and yogurt comes from cows that are not treated with rBST. What is that, you ask? It's a growth hormone that is often given to cows. I don't care why farmers use it. I don't care that the FDA has declared milk with it to be safe. I don't want it in my milk. I would prefer to buy raw milk for my family but that's outside the range of my budget right now.

I also learned that Target brand yogurt does not have high fructose corn syrup in it. I had been buying Kroger and Dannon brands because everything else seemed to have HFCS in it. I'm glad to have another reasonably priced option. Also, Target brand has plastic lids that will snap back on when my child says halfway through the carton "I'm full."

The last thing I learned today is that Citibank will create a Virtual Account Number for me to use online. That way I don't have to give out my real account number and worry about it being stolen. How cool is that? The virtual number they gave me today expires next month; I think that it's actually only good for one use but I'll have to double check that. Now I need to see if my credit union can do that, too, so I can use it with my debit card.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Another $2 billion for clunkers?

I understand the idea behind the program is to get people to get rid of their gas-guzzling vehicles and start driving more fuel efficient ones so that we aren't using as much gasoline and therefore dependent as much on oil, foreign and domestic. I get it. It's a nice idea. But do I really want my tax dollars paying for people to buy new cars? I don't EVER buy new cars. They would depreciate dramatically as soon as I drive them off the lot. Also, I don't have enough money saved up to buy a brand new car -- I can only afford used. And since I'm not willing to take out a loan to purchase a depreciating asset then this cash for clunkers program will not benefit me at all. But the more I think about it, the less I mind it benefitting others with my tax money. That's because it actually is a good idea...but I'm sad that those perfectly good vehicles (even though the gov't calls them clunkers) will be destroyed instead of available on the used car market. But the bigger problem that I have with this program is the question of "where is the extra money coming from"? What budget cut is being made to account for the EXTRA $2 billion that congress allocated for it? Or do they think they can just print money whenever they want?

Monday, July 27, 2009

Albertson's Deals

If you are in the DFW area and have the Albertson's ad that came in the newspaper last week (or in my case was thrown on the yard on Wednesday morning because I don't subscribe to the paper) check out the in-store coupons. They expire tomorrow (Tuesday). I got Dannon All-Natural yogurt for 29 cents a carton, Aquafresh toothpaste for 89 cents, and White Rain conditioner for 69 cents a bottle. They also have eggs on sale for 88 cents a dozen. I usually get free eggs from a friend who has chickens but when I'm running low I will buy them on sale. There are lots more coupons in the ad so check it out!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Financial crisis?

We hear so much on the news about the current "economic crisis" but I wonder how much it's actually affecting our day to day lives. I hear reports of people having their credit limits reduced and suddenly finding themselves over the limit on their credit cards and paying fees for that. I don't actually use credit cards except for gasoline and utilities (for the convenience factor) and I'm very careful about paying it off in full each month. But I do check online regularly to see if my limit has been changed at all. So far it hasn't. I have more credit available to me than I know what to do with. And since I never carry a balance I'm not really a money-maker for the bank that issues my credit card. So I wouldn't be surprised to see my limit lowered. But I'm wondering if this is actually happening to people or if it's just news reports blown out of proportion. What are you seeing in your life? Are you being hurt by the current economic conditions?

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8

Yes, I have been watching the saga of the Gosselin family for 4 seasons now. Last night I watched the opening episode of season 5. I haven't read any of the articles in the magazines at the grocery checkout line -- just the headlines. So I don't know if Jon really cheated. I don't know if Kate really made an agreement with him to allow him to cheat. I don't know if she had an affair with her body guard. What I do know is that I enjoyed their show because they were a normal family but with more children than normal. They fought, they loved, they played, they worked. They just lived their lives and did the best they could to raise their 8 children. Basically, they were like my family only with a few less children (and of course our kids came along one at a time). Now they seem like a celebrity family with a huge house, fancy toys, expensive vacations, and a staff of employees including bodyguards and nannies. They don't come across as a normal family working together anymore. Given what I've seen on the show and what I saw in last night's episode, here's my unsolicited advice for the Gosselin family...

Kate -- Quit the book tour. Quit the speaking engagements. Stay home with your children. Play with them. Read books with them. Just enjoy them.

Jon -- Get a job. Get a job outside the home. Cultivate friendships with other dads.

I would never want my family's life put on television so I would stop the show immediately. I understand, however, that they make a lot of money doing this, and that's probably asking too much of them. But what is it doing to the kids?

I have started watching a new show on TLC called "Table for Twelve" that I enjoy so much more than Jon & Kate. The Hayes family also has several sets of multiples -- 2 sets of twins and a set of sexteplets. But they come across as a very normal family, a family I can relate to. Mom stays home with the kids while dad works as a police officer. Their home is chaotic at times and so is mine. They laugh at the chaos and I *try* to to do same. What's different about these 2 families -- the Hayes and the Gosselins? I think maybe the Hayes come across like the Gossleins USED TO. So to Jon & Kate -- go back to your roots. Go back to what brought you together in the first place. Take down the facade and be real, like you used to.

Shopping for kids clothes

Rebecca needed a few pair of shorts since she doesn't usually have hand-me-downs to grow into like her sisters. So we went to Target and she didn't find anything that she liked and that I was willing to buy. Either the shorts were really really short (to the point where her bottom was hanging out the back) or they were low rise and she doesn't like the way those fit. What happened to plain old shorts for little girls? So we ended up at Kid to Kid, a local resale shop. We found some great clothes there for both Rebecca and Melanie for a fraction of the cost. It has never bothered me to buy used clothing for my children. The quality tends to be better because you can tell that they have already been through wear and tear from at least one other child and still look great. And I can't beat the price. I spent a little over $20 at Kid to Kid; it would have cost me well over$50 to get the same amount of clothing from an affordable place like Target.

Bathing suits, on the other hand, I buy new. I am willing to let them be passed down from one of my children to the next but I balk at buying them used. I'm searching for modest bathing suits for my girls now because they start swimming lessons in a couple of weeks. It's a definite challenge. My oldest prefers 2-piece suits because they are easier to deal with when she has to go to the bathroom. She has a very valid point there. But I'm not letting her wear a bikini-style suit. How am I supposed to let her do that now and then in a couple of years tell her that it's not acceptable anymore because we don't think it's modest enough? So I'm again searching for a suit that will work for both criteria -- modest and reasonably priced. I'm thinking about a trip to Kohls and will be cruising the Land's End website later today. Any other suggestions?

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Free KFC Chicken?

Have you seen the KFC coupons that were touted on the Oprah show for free grilled chicken and a side? Have you had problems with them being accepted at your local KFC? I've been reading in several places online that franchises aren't taking them because corporate doesn't reimburse them for the all the chicken being given away. So only corporate locations are honoring them. The same was apparently true for a national promotion at Popeyes last week. I saw a news story about the only Popeye's store in Minnesota, I think it was. They had lines out to the street and were telling people that they were not honoring the nationally advertised special because they were a franchise. Quiznos has had the same issue with coupons in the past -- only corporate locations accept them and franchises don't because they aren't getting reimbursed. What is wrong with the corporations? Why would they pull thses kind of stunts? I know the reason for the advertised specials and the coupons -- to get customers in the door. Do they think that screwing over their franchise owners is good for their bottom line? I guess maybe they think that if you come in the door you will buy something even if you can't get what you came there for. Well, let me tell you something Mr CEO...I live on a budget. I can't print money like the federal government. If I plan to use a coupon or take advantage of a sale and am denied at the register, I will leave. Even if my kids cry about it, I will leave. And I WILL NOT COME BACK. Trust me. Ask anyone who knows me -- I don't forget these things.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Obama's "luck"

Isn't it interesting how lucky President Obama is? Just when John McCain was pulling ahead in the polls last fall, Wall Street collapsed and in a panic the tide turned toward him. When he was elected, the crisis got worse and we watched the stimulus bill get passed with so many senators and representatives not even reading the entire bill; there just wasn't enough time to read it -- we just needed to pass it to save all of us. Now we are looking at a questionable appointment to HHS Secretary in Kathleen Sebelius but it appears that she will receive quick confirmation in the next few days because we're facing a potential epidemic of swine flu. I find it really interesting that all these crises keep popping up and we the people keep rushing to approve drastic measures that we are likely to regret later. I pray that Governor Sebelius is not confirmed as HHS Secretary until a full investigation is done regarding her support of (and financial support from) the infamous Dr George Tiller (aka Tiller The Baby Killer). Regardless of whether or not abortion is legal in this country, do most Americans really want the head of the HHS to be someone who had no problem with gruesome late-term abortions for pretty much any reason? Tiller was aborting babies who had already reached the point of viability! If the American people are accepting of this kind of action, then maybe we've sunk too far down morally to ever recover. What can we do right now? Call your senator and ask him or her to slow down and think about this decision before calling for a hasty vote. And of course, PRAY!

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Duct Tape Alert!

I don't know if he still does it, but when I first started listening to Glenn Beck's radio show about 7 years ago he often spoke of the need to wrap his head in duct tape to keep it from exploding. Well, I am looking for the duct tape today!

I just read an article on Catholic Exchange about Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's comments about the founder of Planned Parenthood Margaret Sanger. In addition to describing herself as "in awe" of Sanger, she said, "The 20th century reproductive rights movement, really embodied in the life and leadership of Margaret Sanger, was one of the most transformational in the entire history of the human race. She also said that Sanger’s work "is not done." Really? The most transformational? Well, I guess I can agree with that -- but not in the positive way that Mrs Clinton sees it. New Jersey Congressman Chris Smith questioned Mrs. Clinton saying, "Sanger’s prolific writings dripped with contempt for those she considers to be unfit to live. Sanger was an unapologetic eugenicist and racist, who said, and I quote, ‘The most merciful thing a family does for one of its infant members is to kill it.’ She also said, on another occasion, quote, ‘Eugenics is the most adequate and thorough avenue to the solution of racial, political and social problems.’" Congressmand Smith then asked her in regard to the undone work of Sanger if the Obama administration seeks "in any way to weaken or overturn pro-life laws and policies in African and Latin American countries, either directly or through multilateral organizations, including and especially the United Nations, African Union, or the OAS, or by way of funding NGOs like Planned Parenthood?" What do you think Mrs Clinton's answer was? Of course she confirmed that the Obama administration’s definition of "reproductive health" includes abortion, and that, "We are now an Administration that will protect the rights of women, including their rights to reproductive health care."

So in other words we are an Administration that supports women who choose to murder their offspring. Great. Of course none of us should be surprised by this. Didn't we know what we were getting when we (as a nation, not me personally) elected Mr Obama?

I think the worst part of this article is the fact that Mrs Clinton gives so much praise to Margaret Sanger and to eugenics. I seriously doubt that Mrs Clinton would stand up and say to us "I support the extermination from the human race of the poor, poor, disenfranchised, weak, disabled, people of color, and the unborn child." But isn't that what she says when she speaks so highly of Margaret Sanger? I for one am very worried about the state of our nation with regard to human life, especially with Mrs Clinton and Mr Obama as leaders.

On March 28 Mrs Clinton was awarded the Margaret Sanger Award by Panned Parenthood. This was right after she made a trip to Mexico's Basilica of Our Lady of Guadalupe. Did you know that Our Lady of Guadalupe is the patroness of the pro-life movement?

Here's a picture that absolutely turned my stomach --
Do you see the caption on it?? If I remember this news story correctly she also asked during this visit to Mexico who that lady was in the pictures -- it was Mary, Our Lady of Guadalupe. I can only pray that Mary turns Mrs Clinton's heart and helps her repent for her support of abortion as a "reproductive right".

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Technology is driving me batty!

OK...I admit it. In many ways I'm a luddite. According to Merriam-Webster a luddite can broadly be defined as a person "opposed to technological change". It's not so much that I'm opposed to it; I just can't handle the encroachment of technology on my everyday life.

1. I have a cell phone but it's pre-paid (at a rate of 25 cents per minute) and I very rarely use it. I bought it for emergencies. I almost never give out the number and don't answer calls unless I recognize the name or number on the caller-id.

2. When I want to listen to music I turn on the radio in the van or the radio in the house. I don't have an I-Pod or any such device. I'm not entirely sure I could download songs from the internet even if I wanted to.

3. I don't have a Palm Pilot; I have a calendar on the wall next to my desk.

4. Speaking of desks...I do have a computer. It's a desktop computer that's probably outdated but it works for me. We do have a laptop computer that we bought used from my brother-in-law but it mostly stays in the closet.

5. Speaking of outdated, I LOVE the version of Quicken that I use to keep track of our bank accounts and investments but it's from 1999. I haven't bothered to update since then because what I am using works just fine for me.

6. We finally caved and got high-speed internet through AT&T. Really, the only reason we did that was because it was bundled with the cable channel package we wanted. Before that we had dial-up internet because there wasn't any DSL service available in our neighborhood.

As much as I do love certain aspects of technology, I find that it can easily get in the way. I've recently signed up for Facebook and before I knew it I had over 100 friends there. I didn't realize that I even knew that many people! I have to limit the time I spend on Facebook because I know that I could easily become addicted to it. In fact, I have several friends who have given up Facebook for Lent. I like Facebook because I've been able to reconnect with friends from high school and am able to keep up with people easily through the website. E-mail is another part of technology that I really do like. I do business for my organic meat co-op through e-mail and also find that it's easier to send someone a quick note rather than call them and sometimes end up on the telephone for 20 or 30 minutes. But at the same time the e-mail is so informal and seems to distance us from each other. Hmmmm....that's an entirely new blog topic and I think I'll save it for tomorrow.

I sat down a little while ago to check e-mails and saw that I have 588 unread e-mails! How does that happen? Well, I don't always have a lot of time to sit at the computer and read/respond to them so I will skan the subject lines and only open the ones that I think need to be dealt with right now. Sometimes I will open one, read it, and then mark it as "unread" so that I will remember to respond to it later. I do that because I often am nursing the baby while checking e-mails and have a hard time typing one-handed!

Back to my original is driving me batty! Too many e-mails, too many electronic devices, too little time spent just playing with the kids and reading books to them. It's probably not driving you's probably just me. I think I'll write more later on the idea of technology putting us in our own little bubbles. Right now, though, I want to to and read books with my kids.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

My Birthday Project

Yes -- I chose a project for my birthday. Don't most people do that? No? OK...I never claimed to be like "most people" anyway. I chose to empty out my bedroom and paint it today. Then I went ahead and pulled up the carpet so I could decide what to do with the floors. I thought I might like to live with the concrete floors and even considered painting them. Now that I've had bare concrete floors for a few hours I'm already planning on saving up for laminate floors. LOL! I am just so tired of dealing with carpet that I would rather deal with the concrete for a while until I can get the money together. Below are a couple of BEFORE and AFTER pictures of parts of the room. Before we painted, the walls were white (except for inside the windows which my dad had already painted when I replaced the blinds) and the carpet was 11-year-old cheap builder's grade tan. Now the walls are sort of a slate blue and the floors are...well...concrete. The blue showed up much brighter in the pictures than it actually looks on the wall. The best part about the paint is that I am now ALMOST DONE painting the entire house! I still have one more coat to put in our bathroom and a little bit of touch-up here and there. We had the builder just paint all the walls white when we built the house almost 11 years ago and finally started painting about 2 years ago. I was so tired of white walls that I have created a very colorful (some would say too colorful) house. But I like it and I enjoyed my birthday project. I especially enjoyed having a babysitter come over and keep my 4 children occupied for a good chunk of the day while we worked!

The dresser where we usually have a 10 gallon fish tank.

The corner of the room right next to me VERY yellow bathroom.

We messed up the vinyl a little pulling up the carpet tack strips.

The blue in this picture is fairly accurate. I can't wait to get all my books back on the shelf!

Friday, February 13, 2009

The Slippery Slope of Reproductive Rights

"It's my opinion that a woman's right to reproduce should be limited to a number which the parents can pay for," Charles Murray wrote in a letter to the Los Angeles Daily News. "Why should my wife and I, as taxpayers, pay child support for 14 Suleman kids?"

Wow! So if I follow his logic out just a little farther will I get to the point where the state will be in my bedroom telling me to use birth control because they don't think that we can support any more children? What about the family with 2 or 3 or 4 or 10 or 11 children who is supporting themselves just fine but then tragedy strikes in the form of a job layoff? Suddenly they are at the point where they are having to choose between the mortgage payment, the electricity bill, or groceries.

"From the outside you can tell that this woman was playing the system," host Bryan Suits said on the "Kennedy and Suits" show on KFI-AM. "You're damn right the state should step in and seize the kids and adopt them out."

According to Mr Suits, where is the line that needs to be crossed before the state steps in and seizes children from families who have fallen on hard times? Maybe he's only talking about families who, in his opinion, are "playing the system". But who decides that? There are so many families with any number of children who are only one or two paychecks away from disaster.

These opinions scare the living daylights out of me. Maybe that's because I have 4 children so far and hope that we are blessed with more. In this new world of "hope and change" should I someday expect to have to apply for a permit to have another child? Will I have to justify that choice by providing tax returns for a few years to show we can afford to raise another child? And who decides the cost of raising a child? If I am to believe the media reports I've read in the last few years it will cost in the neighborhood of $250,000 to raise each of my children. That certainly makes me laugh! Either we live in a totally different world from the people who calculated those numbers or my poor children are completely deprived.

What I find interesting about the recent case of Ms Suleman, the mom who just gave birth to octuplets, is that it seems to be the most rabid pro-choice people who are spewing hate all over the internet. She CHOSE to give birth instead of "selectively reducing" the number of babies. She CHOSE life over death. She CHOSE to use the embryos instead of allowing them to be destroyed, used for medical testing, or donating them to another couple. As a rabid pro-life person myself, I commend her for choosing life for the babies. I'm just saddened that she put herself in that position to begin with by creating life in a petri dish.

So to answer Mr Murray's question, "Why should my wife and I, as taxpayers, pay child support for 14 Suleman kids?" Maybe because you have a vested interest in ALL children succeeding and being able to support themselves some day. Maybe because you don't want the state in your bedroom telling you whether you have permission to conceive a child. Maybe because those children didn't do anything wrong and deserve the basic human rights of a safe place to live and safe food to eat. Maybe because those children will someday make great contributions to our society. Maybe because it's just the right thing to do.

Watch THIS VIDEO and think about it.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Obama defends life. Really??

According to the White House blog, here is an excerpt from President Obama's remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast this past Wednesday in Washington DC.....

"There is no doubt that the very nature of faith means that some of our beliefs will never be the same. We read from different texts. We follow different edicts. We subscribe to different accounts of how we came to be here and where we’re going next – and some subscribe to no faith at all. But no matter what we choose to believe, let us remember that there is no religion whose central tenet is hate. There is no God who condones taking the life of an innocent human being. This much we know." (I added the emphasis on the last 2 sentences.)

Really Mr President? Those are very kind words. I'm impressed. But I have a question. Is there any human life more innocent than that of an unborn baby living in its mother’s womb?

Sunday, February 1, 2009

I'm getting new living room furniture!

No, it's not "new" but it's "new to me". I'm so excited about it! We were able to get a great deal from a local guy who was selling it on CraigsList. He's even going to deliver it tomorrow afternoon so I don't have to go rent a truck.

It's all leather and includes a sleeper sofa, a dual-reclining loveseat, a rocker/recliner, and a large ottoman with storage. It's originally from a high-end leather store that custom makes furniture at their facility about 30 miles north of here so it's MADE IN THE USA and not in China. I think that might be the best part for me. I looked at some furniture at Haverty's a few months ago and asked the salesman where it was made. He actually laughed at me and told me that no furniture is made in the US anymore. Guess he was wrong.

We paid cash for the furniture that is only about a year old and paid about 30% of the retail price. My point in writing about this is to show that if you "live like no one else" as Dave Ramsey says then later on you can "live like no one else". It does take patience, though, to save up the money and wait for the right deal to come along.

Here's a picture of the entire set that he posted with his CraigsList ad.

It's lighter than we had planned to buy but it was such a great deal that I was willing to compromise some on the color.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Paying down the mortgage

I am working on our monthly budget for the new year in my Quicken program and just realized something. In a few months we will have more of our monthly mortgage payment going toward principle than toward interest! That's never happened before!! We used to have a 30 year mortgage and only about $200 each month went toward the principle...way less than what was going toward interest. We refinanced last year to a 15 year mortgage and I'm so amazed at how quickly the numbers are changing.

Another exciting thing for us is that my husband just got a sort-of promotion at work and will be getting a raise along with it. Since we have a fully funded emergency fund (baby step 3 per Dave Ramsey) and are already putting 15% of our income into retirement (baby step 4 per Dave Ramsey) we will be able to dump all of his raise onto our mortgage every month. I'm excited to see those numbers go down even faster!! Take a look at your own budget and your mortgage and see if you can do the same thing. What a great feeling it will be when we can finally say that we OWN our house!