Last Tuition Payment!

I made our last tuition payment the other day. Yee ha!!

Granted, the money continues to drain our bank account with her rent, living expenses, cell phone, etc. etc. etc. BUT we just made the final tuition payment for child number two in September. So, until recently, we were paying tuition for two kids.

SO THIS IS HUGE!!

Child number one has been independent for close to five years, about a year before our youngest started college and moved out.

Child number two graduated in December and started a good job in January. An “I can support myself” kind of job. He’s responsible for everything now. He’s even started paying us back for expenses racked up over the previous 6 1/2 years (yes – it was a long haul). I’m taking $100 out of every paycheck until we’re good. I haven’t bothered to put a number on it but this means we are no longer shelling out for gas or rent or utilities. And I’ve set up automatic monthly transfers to cover his share of our Verizon and auto insurance bills.

Child number three graduates in May. I don’t want to get ahead of myself and jinx anything. Graduating doesn’t guarantee getting a job providing self sufficiency. And getting a job isn’t the same as getting the right job or keeping a job. And, let’s face it, you’re never really out of the woods if you’re a parent. Bad stuff happens.

But good stuff happens, too, and you may as well celebrate it when it does!

Know Local Mailbox Locations

mailboxDo you know where local mailboxes are located? Not necessarily at the post office, unless that happens to be as convenient location as any, but mailboxes located near businesses/places you regularly go to.

Years ago I put a check in our mailbox, setting the red flag up for our mailman. Then we went on vacation. By the time we got back someone had stolen the check out of the mailbox, called our bank to verify funds (possibly numerous times), “washed” the check and rewrote it to themselves for as much money as possible ($5,000).

It took weeks to get resolved. An investigator came to our house. The bank at first “loaned” us the money before making it official. Our account had to be closed and a new one opened. It was a massive pain in the butt. And, ultimately, the bank took the hit on the $5,000.

Since then, I’ve rarely put mail in our mailbox, especially if it contained a check. Luckily, with online bill pay, I rarely have to write checks anyway. I now try to pay attention when I notice a mailbox somewhere on my regular route. There’s one at the library. There used to be one at the rec center I go to (and now work at), but that disappeared last year. There’s one a mile away that I pass almost every day. And I noticed last week that there’s a new one outside Costco, somewhere I go almost every week.

Knowing where a number of convenient, easy-to-access mailboxes are means I don’t have to put mail out for our mailman to get. And, based on what I’m doing on a particular day, it’s easy for me to plan where to drop it off at.

Good Use for Old Stationery

stationeryOver the years I’ve gathered a collection of stationery – for Christmas letters, graduation invites, dinner party invites, etc. With the advent of Shutterfly and Evite, I no longer need the stationery and it sits in my desk, unused.

Until now!

It finally occurred to me that I could use it for much of my printing needs. I just make sure it’s inserted face side up in my printer tray, so that whatever I’m printing prints on the blank back of the stationery.

So far, I’ve used it for shopping lists, recipes, coupons, a Groupon, and a ticket to the Cartier exhibit at the Art Museum. At this rate, it’ll all be gone in a year or so.

Replaced a Plate and Some Cutlery

ikea dishesA couple of weeks ago I decided to use actual dinnerware and cutlery whenever we were entertaining 12 or fewer. I’ve been using nicer plastic plates and cutlery from Party City and would like to save the approx $10 it costs every time I do this.

Earlier in the year I purchased some IKEA place settings I was really pleased with. Well, one of the dinner plates went missing. Not sure how or where. Our daughter was back for summer break and had some friends living with us off and on. I checked under all the beds and the couch downstairs. No plate.

I emailed any friends and family I may have left it at. No plate.

So, I decided to go back to IKEA and buy one. I bought three, just in case.

I also counted up our flatware. I bought place settings for 12 a number of years ago. Since then we had lost 5 cereal spoons, 4 salad forks and more. I went online and was able to find place settings for four for $32. I’m still short a cereal spoon, which I will either find or buy separately some day.

Now I can set the table for 12 (minus one small spoon) and, for once, everything will match!!

Stain Devils – The Best!

stain devilsI posted about Stain Devils awhile ago, when I saved a shirt of Jay’s that had a red wine stain. At our recent FAC, our friend got red wine on his polo shirt and I sent some of the Stain Devil powder home with his wife. It worked and she immediately bought some.

There are nine formulas in all and I now have all but one. The new ones all seem to be liquid, which is even more convenient (although not so easy to send home with someone in a baggy in a baggy).

Yesterday, I used it to get a long dried blood stain out of a shirt. It worked perfectly. I have yet to try the formula for cooking oil and grease. I’ve ruined SO many shirts while cooking or baking (or eating for that matter).

I’ve got a link on the left of the page to buy Stain Devils on Amazon. Definitely something to have on hand. In fact, I’m thinking that the whole set would be a really nice gift or stocking stuffer for a newlywed, or a young person getting their first apartment…

Laundry Day

laundryMonday is laundry day. Every 2nd Monday, that is. 😉 I do between 2-4 loads. Bed linens, bath towels, kitchen towels, my casual clothes. I tend to wash my “nicer” things by hand. I don’t spend $10/year on dry cleaning.

Jay does his own laundry and has for years. He says I shrink his clothes and there is some truth to that. I do it to my t-shirts and polo shirts, and then I hate it when they’re too short! The trick is to remember to take them out after the wash and let them air dry.

I stopped doing the kids’ laundry when they were each in their early teens. I really hate doing laundry.

Grocery Tips – Updated

– maximize savings and buy something when it’s on sale AND you have a coupon. Yesterday, I bought two boxes of Bran Flakes. I had two coupons for $1.50 off AND they were part of King Soopers Mega Savings Event (buy five participating items and get $1 off each one). I purchase three other items I needed, getting $1 off each.

– when buying meat or produce, pay attention to “waste”. You’re usually paying by the lb, so a head of brocolli with a huge, thick stalk is less economical than one that’s more “crown” than stalk. With bacon, for example, try to pick a package with the most amount of meat and least amount of fat. There’s a lot of variance between packages, even within a brand name, and they cost the same regardless of meat/fat ratio.

– also, when buying produce, pay attention to how it’s priced. Most are priced per lb. But not all! Lettuce, avocados, peppers, and pomegranates, for example, are usually priced per item. Therefore you get more bank for your buck by picking the BIGGEST you can. Weigh them if you’re so inclined.

– the same goes for Costco rotisserie chickens, BTW. You think they’re all the same size? Think again. Look for the ones where the chicken squishes against the top of the plastic container. Pick up a couple and see the difference. You’re paying the same price for the scrawny one…

– it’s common to assume that the bigger the package/box, the cheaper the per unit cost. Not always so – especially when the smaller size is on sale. I find this, frequently, when buying cereal or milk. Check the price info for the cheapest per unit cost.

– your best savings come when you can combine an in store price reduction AND a coupon. Get a feel for the sales cycles for your most commonly purchased items to maximize your savings.

– have more than one carton of eggs in the fridge or two open jugs of milk or multiple packs of meat in the freezer? Use a Sharpie to mark the one you want to use first (unless you LIKE checking the expiration dates all the time). When the kids are around in the summer I make a lot of hard boiled eggs and keep them in a bowl in the fridge. If I make a batch before a previous batch is finished, I mark the eggs to be eaten first with a dot (they’re still in their shells, of course).

Selling Stuff on Craigslist

craigslistI know some people are nervous about using Craigslist to buy or sell things. I approach it with caution. I don’t meet people alone or I meet them in a public place. I don’t think it’s any different than when we used newspaper ads. Just cheaper and easier!

This week we have a Suburban for sale; a twin bed set (sold for $50); furniture that we acquired with a foreclosure that is now, finally, under contract; and a computer desk that came with our current house. We are meeting people on Saturday and I’m pretty confident much of the furniture will go. It has to be gone before we close. I’m pretty sure we’ll end up giving the computer desk away, or selling it for something like $10. The Suburban better sell soon – before there’s a massive hailstorm or someone drives into it. Plus, I want to cancel the insurance.

I love Craigslist, although I wish they would upgrade the application. The biggest benefit it provides for us is advertising our rentals. We used to have to place an ad in the newspaper. It was expensive. We had minimal space. And we had to renew it if the property didn’t rent before the ad expired. Compare that to today with Craigslist! As much text as we want. Many pictures. Easy to manage and renew. Communication can take place via email. And the ad sticks around in our account so that we can reuse it the next time we need to rent.

Postlets is another tremendous tool we use. Again, free. www.postlets.com

Refill Prescriptions Before They Expire

prescriptionThis bit me in the butt, again. Aggghhh.

My daughter was prescribed a skin lotion in late March of last year, with six refills. Well, she wasn’t going through it nearly at that rate. In fact, I wasn’t sure if she was even routinely using it, since she’s off at school. It’s so much harder to keep track of this when a) it’s not your own medication, and b) when the person using the medication isn’t at home.

Of course, about 32 days after the prescription expired, after having only used 2 or 3 of the six refills she needs more. I was lucky and the doctor let us fill it again, with two additional refills.

I’ll make sure to use the refills as long as my daughter is using the lotion. In fact, I’ve put the prescription paperwork in my filing system so I won’t forget.

Newspaper or Not?

denver postYou know you’re old when you still get a physical newspaper every morning. It costs $10/month and, despite the fact that half the articles drive me crazy with either a) their complete liberal spin, or b) they appear to be written by twenty-year-olds obsessed with clever headlines, I don’t see us stopping service anytime soon. The benefits outweigh the cost:

– I like doing the Sudoku while I eat breakfast. I don’t want to do it online. I don’t want to print it off from an online site. Likewise, Jay likes to do the word jumble. (Talk about us sounding old.)

– I like getting the coupon inserts every weekend. They save me money.

– I check ads every Thursday and Friday for sales on wine and bourbon. Our liquor store matches any advertised price and you have to bring in the newspaper ad. This save me money.

– I try to remember to cut out the Hobby Lobby ad on Sundays, when I think there’s a chance I’ll be buying something there. This saves me money.

– I already spend too much time on my computer. I don’t want to also read the paper online.

– I keep the sections I haven’t read in a stack and usually manage to get to them at some point during the week. I wouldn’t be able to keep track if I was reading it online.

– I will think of other reasons…