Saturday, May 31, 2014

May Spending Recap

Wow, it's been an entire year since I did a monthly spending recap! How did that happen?


business ($3.89)
jeep ($59.59)
mazda ($50.75)
cat ($8.49)
cell phones ($90.00)
charity ($10.00)
clothing ($30.73)
dental ($120.80)
electric ($78.91)
electronics ($82.08)
entertainment ($14.96)
food - groceries ($425.36)
food - other ($119.77)
gas ($85.97)
gifts ($53.69)
house ($1,442.96)
household ($895.14)
hygiene ($16.98)
internet ($75.57)
medical ($30.00)
water & trash ($92.70)

Things of Note: 
Nothing, really. Our utility bills have been dropping incrementally as the weather warms up, a trend which I expect to continue until it gets so hot we have to turn the air on. We've got some dental bills coming up for both of us, and our grocery spending has gone up a bit more in general (hey, having a kid actually does cost money!), but otherwise this was a pretty solid month. Even having spent $700 on a mattress, we'll be able to transfer some $$$ to savings to bulk up the emergency fund - yeah!

How was your May spending?



Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Reeeeeeeewards!

This is my favorite time of year - rewards season!

I don't know why we always tend to do it at the beginning of summer, but we do - we take a look at what our no-fee rewards credit card has built up to, and we cash it out for the best deal.

I actually have two no-fee rewards cards, relics that I've had for years and years since before the economy crashed. So they are both pretty good, but I hardly ever use my Discover card anymore - I used to have a recurring payment set up on it, but I don't even have that anymore. Must look into finding one to do that with (I hardly ever do recurring automatic payments because I just don't trust them, but it's worth it to keep a rarely-used credit card open.) I didn't have enough points there to get anything.

Capital One is our main card - we use it for EVERYTHING and we get a decent rewards point return on it. This year, we had almost 25,000 points, and since there wasn't anything at the 25,000 level that we wanted to wait for, we went ahead and cashed in 23,500 points for a $100 Target gift card and a $50 Home Depot card. I wish I'd done this a few weeks ago so I could have used that Home Depot card for the garden stuff we just bought, but live and learn, I guess. I always look carefully at all the gift cards and other options (cash, account credit, products) to see which has the best value, and so far we have consistently found that gift cards to places we normally shop (or sometimes to restaurants) are the best value for us.

I also am a member of a survey community that pays in points, and I cashed those points in for a $50 Starbucks credit. And I earned about $21 from another survey site, so I transferred that money from Paypal into my checking account. It's been a very nice week for rewards for me!

The one thing I'm not using regularly anymore is Swagbucks. I used it consistently on my work computer and when I had my own computer at home (and time to use such computer...) but now Peanut and I share a computer at home and he's....kind of a stickler for keeping it free of junky adware, which is basically what Swagbucks is. And without spending 40 hours a week online, I'm just not doing enough searches to earn enough points to get an Amazon gift card every single month. So, it's not really worth it to me anymore. I also toyed with things like JingIt and other services, but meh. I'm not interested in selling my time for nickels and dimes anymore.

Still, all things together, I got $200 in gift cards and a Jackson in cash, so this was not a bad day at all for me!

What kind of things do you get with your reward points? Any great ways to earn additional rewards? 


Saturday, May 24, 2014

On Maximizing and Satisficing

Peanut and I bought our first new piece of furniture* together recently: a brand-new mattress. It's kind of gross to think about, but I have not slept on a mattress that hasn't slept other people since.....probably since I moved from a crib into a big girl bed.

Ugh,  heebie jeebies.

Our last mattress was a queen size thing with a pillowtopper on top of it, and it was already a little softer than what I would normally like when we bought it from a friend about five years ago. And since then, the little indentations where we sleep have just gotten deeper and eventually I was having back pain from sleeping on my stomach on this big soft thing. And since it has a pillowtopper, you can't flip it, you can only rotate it (and then I'm sleeping in Peanut's slightly deeper indentation, which - not helpful!).

We (I) decided to get a new one, because we're grown-ups dammit and sleep is precious when you've got a toddler and I want to sleep comfortably. We started thinking about this maybe in January, and then found out that May is when most mattresses go on sale. So we waited til May, went to a friends and family event, and got a mattress for a good deal - 30% off the regular price, plus they brought it over and set it up and carted away the old one.

Let me tell you about the research we did: we laid on some beds.

I know. I am like the uber-researcher of everything. I need to know how it's made, and what the options are, and which ones are better than others, and the history of mattress-making and all sorts of other crap. I researched the HECK out of baby gear for Baby M the first time around, but when it was time to buy her a convertible car seat I was kind of like, oh, hey, there's one here at Costco, let's get it.

And that's how I was with the mattress, too.

I already knew that I don't like the TempurPedic foam stuff - it makes me hot. And it feels weird. And it's expensive. I wanted a really basic, not fancy mattress, and ultimately I do not care what goes into it or how it's made - what really matters is how I feel when laying on it, right? So we laid on some beds, and wound up buying the firmest one, which happened to be just about the cheapest one in the store.

And it was all good.

Apparently, in my old age, I am becoming less of a maximizer and more of a satisficer - and you know what? I'm happy about it! I have zero complaints about the mattress, and only one about the car seat (and it being Costco, I have some time to return it if I can't learn to deal with it). Wish I'd figured this out a lot sooner.


* Is a mattress a piece of furniture? I don't know what else to call it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Problem with "Found Money"

I get "found money" - money outside of our normal income - in a couple different ways. Birthday gifts and blog income are probably the most common ways that we get money in that's not normally expected.

For years, I have noticed that I have a terrible tendency to double dip my found money. For example, I might get $100 for my birthday, and I will buy a Groupon for $60 for a couple massages. Then I will splurge on an extra round of swimming lessons for Baby M for $50. Then I will treat myself to a couple of lunches out, "with my birthday money", for maybe $30. Suddenly, I've spent $140 of that $100! I forget each unusual purchase almost as soon as I've made it, so in my mind, the entire $100 remains unspent.

I used to have this problem with mystery shopping money, which was a big problem because I was actually doing that to help ends meet, so I couldn't afford to splurge that income at all. I finally ended up creating special budget categories that were ONLY filled with that money - so if I didn't put the mystery shopping income there, there was nothing to be spent on clothes for that month, or whatever it was.

Now I don't keep a strict written budget so much anymore, much less an envelope system, so that is a little harder to come by. I'm trying to pay closer attention to my habits, but I think next time I get "free money" I will take it out in cash and only spend it in cash - when it's gone, it's gone, and that will be the end of it.

Do you find that you tend to do some double accounting when it comes to found money? 




Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sous Chef update

So I have actually been trying new recipes each week, but so far they have all been flops, so I haven't posted them here. Who wants to see pictures of non-appetizing quinoa cakes or hear about tasteless stirfry?

Not me. I can't muster up the energy to write about them, either.

I'm still working on it. Now that the weather is nicer, at least I've been able to add the grill as a cooking method, so I can add burgers or brats to the rotation. Or kabobs! We made some good kabobs last year, and that will be fun to do again.

Have you made anything tasty for dinner lately? Help a girl out!


Thursday, May 15, 2014

My First Time Selling at a Kids Consignment Sale

About a year and a half ago, I wrote about my first time shopping at a kids consignment sale. They are held twice a year in my area, and I've now been to four rounds of sales. At the last one, I dipped my toes into the world of consigning myself, so I thought I'd share what I learned.

As Baby M has outgrown clothes and toys, I set aside the things I didn't like and didn't think I'd use with any future kids. (For me, this included infant gowns and anything with zippers. Also infant sized towels -big ones work much better!) I washed everything and tossed it in a box.

When it got close to sale time, maybe a month out, I sorted all the clothes by size and gender (we got some hand-me-downs from a boy cousin) and hung them on hangers. I also aggressively went through boxes, bins, drawers, and closets for other things to sell, like diaper bags (I bought two and was given one, but ended up using a swag bag from a conference), duplicate books or toys, feeding stuff, and nursing/pumping supplies.

The sales in my area are run by Just Between Friends, and they are impressively organized and efficient. They have a website where you can enter all your items, set prices, and print out tags with barcodes. I ordered a tagging gun from ebay so I didn't have to deal with a zillion safety pins.

In the space of a few naptimes, I had everything tagged. I took four boxes of stuff along with about 50 clothing items. I had three items rejected during the inspection process for stains that I had overlooked, but everything else was accepted. As a consignor, once your things are approved, you walk around the sales floor to put them out, which also gives you the chance to scope out what you'd like to buy when you come shopping.

The next day, I came to the consignor pre sale and got a few things I'd been wanting (a potty, some books, a few cute clothing items - I saved most of the clothes shopping for half-price day). However, I had more fun looking for the items I had left behind for sale and watching them get snapped up! It was fun to see people pick up my things right in front of me and put it in their baskets. Ca-ching!

As a consignor, you can choose whether to allow your items to be discounted half-price the final day of the sale, and whether or not you'll pick up the unsold items or donate them to charity. I discounted and donated all of my items because I didn't want anything back - and later I found out that doing this entitled me to a full refund of my consignor's fee! Some consignors don't do this, and I find that those people also tend to price their items a little higher than I want to pay, which is too bad. But I guess everyone's goal is different - mine is to get rid of stuff I don't want while making some money, but if the point is just to make money, then you'd do things different from me.

Anyway, I did go back on half-price day and got a bunch of cute stuff for Baby M in the next two sizes up. Between my two days of shopping I spent about $70 and got everything she'll need through winter. And when I got my consignment check back, I found that I made more than twice what I spent - $145! (Which includes my $12 consignor fee refund.) My goal was just to cover what I spent at the sale, so I feel like I did really well.

Here's what I learned for next time:
* Continue finding sale items as we outgrow clothes and toys. Goodwill clothing is often cheaper than what I pay at the sales, so I buy stuff there if I think it will sell at consignment. I also ask for hand-me-downs from friends with older kids - I do tell them that I plan to sell whatever we don't use. At this point I'm not interested in doing consignment work for anyone else, but if they don't care to make money on it, I'm happy to do so.

* Organize sale stuff as we go. Keep toys and clothes separate. Don't toss something on the pile that's stained; take care of it right away. The goal is to have nothing pulled when you bring in your items; this gives you "perfect consignor" status so that you don't have to wait in line at future sales.

* Price more aggressively. Most of my items sold but not everything, and in almost all of those cases I priced the item too high. I go to these sales to get bargains, so I need to price it with the value of what I'd pay for it, now what I hope to earn from it. (In almost every case where an item didn't sell, I looked up the value of the item brand new and priced it 50-70% off of that. I should have started with what I'd pay for something at Goodwill, and mark it up a little bit from there.

Overall, it was a great experience, and I will definitely be doing it again in the future - I expect to do this for years to come. I might use consignment stores as well, but for now the sales are my plan - selling and shopping only twice a year sounds like a good deal to me!