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Posts Tagged ‘Savings’

  1. Home Sweet Home

    June 14, 2015 by admin

    modrnbunglow_22190_mdWe own a home!

    It’s true.  This TR family has completed our home purchase and will soon be completely moved into a house of our very own.

    At first glance you may not consider this to be the most frugal decision.  Buying a home is a huge expense, but home ownership is actually a significant part of our journey towards controlling our expenses.

    It is easy to miss the mark on this goal and end up overextending your budget.  But if you are careful and do your research, you can indeed save money every month by buying a house.  There are many online calculators that will help you begin to determine how much house you can afford.  Be careful!  The principal and interest mortgage payment is just the start of the true monthly cost.  You should also factor in taxes and insurance (Get online estimates or help from a mortgage professional to estimate these costs in your area).  Now you will have a better idea of your base per month cost of owning a home.

    Of course, utilities and repairs also factor into the bottom line.  In most areas, you can get a history of a properties average heating and electric costs from the power utility.  You can also get estimates for costs of water, sewer or sanitation costs from your local municipal offices.  Make sure you are using all of these figures to calculate a realistic budget for yourself.

    Now that you’ve identified what you can afford, begin to seek out any assistance your city or state might offer.  We are lucky to live in an area that has many resources for home owner assistance in the form of grants or forgivable loans.  These resources are available at local state and federal levels, depending on your income, family-size, veteran status, etc.  You may also have opportunities to work with Community Development organizations that will allow you to purchase on land contract or at well below market values.  Do your research!

    Work closely with a trusted mortgage originator to talk you through the pros and cons of different mortgage loans: FHA vs Veterans vs Standard, etc.  You may or may not qualify for numerous types of mortgages that could have different impacts of what you can afford, or are allowed, to purchase.

    We are very fortunate to be saving over $300 dollars every month by purchasing our own home and we couldn’t be more excited to dive into the numerous (and never ending) home repairs/remodels/maintenance.

    Tip: Put a portion of your savings into a “home” account for future expenses so that you aren’t hit hard by an unexpected repair.

    If you think home ownership is out of your reach, we encourage you to take a second look..

  2. Match Game

    March 20, 2015 by admin

    IMG_2925_2We’ve discussed price matching previously as an excellent means of shopping frugally.  If you get the Sunday paper, you can check circulars for product pricing on many items you may want.

    But we wanted to take a post to remind you of the ease and money saving opportunity of price matching to!

    Tip: Make sure you are familiar with each store policy on price matching.

    On a recent trip to Target, we were shopping for a single new filter for our sink water filter.  We were shocked to see that Target was charging $19.99 for one replacement filter!  Knowing that there had to be a better price, we searched online and located the filter on for $8.99.

    Our young cashier didn’t know if Target allowed us to price match to Amazon, but she called over a manager to assist.  We were directed to the courtesy desk where, after a super quick verification of the online price, we were checked out and on our way home.

    Tip2:  This is another great use of your smart phone.  Don’t hesitate to take a minute to check a price online.

    We celebrated a 50% savings by simply searching for a product on our phone prior to checking out of the store!  And now that we are more aware of Target’s policy, we will complete our price check research prior to some of our shopping trips to make the experience even smoother.

    Enjoy your savings!

  3. Two By Two

    January 28, 2015 by admin

    ccall_bi02_38892_md Kids from birth to around 16 years of age do a tremendous amount of growing. Recently our Bluey hopped from a size 5T to 6T within mere weeks. His PJ bottoms inched towards his knees and his jeans were way too tight.

    You can make yourself crazy trying to keep a stock of well fitted clothing and shoes.

    So what to do? Well, a lot is dependent on the age of your child. You can find many unique solutions to the constant need for clothing and shoes when your kids are under 10. But once they start to inch towards puberty, we have found that kids become a lot less flexible about exploring options.

    Our Bluey is six, so we’re enjoying his laissez faire attitude.   We’ve tried a couple of different things to keep ahead of the constant growth.

    Thrifting is a great resource if you have time and patience. Since the stock of clothing is constantly changing, you might not easily find that pair of size 4T pants. You then have to consider if the savings is worth the effort.

    Hand me downs are great- when your kids are the same gender and/or have the same taste in clothing. Our Bluey has inherited many an adored pink kitten shirt from his sister. But the dresses and nightgowns are summarily rejected. So we have an abundance of certain sizes and styles without actually filling the current needs.

    A whole new wardrobe every few months is fantastic. But our budget just can’t handle the turnover demand. We try to stock up, when funds allow, on sale/clearance clothing a few sizes up. But that strategy if very hit or miss. And again, we typically end up with more of one particular item rather than a well-balanced future wardrobe.

    76313_washer_mdOur tried and true problem solver has been to always have at least two pairs of pants and two shirts in the proper size. We have our own washer/dryer and we do a load of wash every day-with four people in the house, the dirty clothing adds up very quickly!  Bluey doesn’t really care what he’s wearing as long as it is comfortable and happens to mostly conform to his broad sense of style.

    Although his clothes wear out pretty fast under this system, they keep up with his knack for outgrowing them, so it all works out.

    We aren’t necessarily saving a boat load of money with this solution to the clothing crises, but we are sane and happy. And Bluey always has something that fits!

  4. Digital Coupons

    January 9, 2015 by admin

    IMG_9688We are a couponing family. Growing up with couponing parents, we can’t resist following suit and teaching our kiddos the skills to knock down the prices of their favorite finds.  We haven’t quite mastered the art, so we’re not what you’d call ‘extreme couponers.’  But we’re always researching and growing our resources for maximum cost savings.

    We figure every penny saved adds to our opportunity to go out and have more adventures or allows us to buy more supplies for the next big art project.

    A lot of folks seem to think that couponing takes a ton of time. They can’t be bothered with the gathering, sorting, and scissoring. And forget about remembering to bring those little bits of paper along on a shopping trip.

    Welcome to the digital age! We have some favorite mobile coupon apps that are a snap to use and will save you money 90% of the time.

    Cartwheel for Target:  When this app was first released, TRMom hated it. But now, thanks to Target’s fixes to its shortcomings, it is in constant use. We especially like the feature that allows you to scan products. Once the barcode is read, the app will tell you whether or not a cartwheel savings exists!IMG_9687

    Tip1: Target will price match to Cartwheel (and other store circulars) for any purchases made within 7 days as long as you have your receipt. This was a huge bonus at Christmas when prices were constantly moving.

    Flipp:  You no longer need to go through store circulars. This app gathers all that information for you. Curious about who might have the best price on Beneful dog food? Search in Flipp and find out. Stores like Walmart will price match to competitors circulars.

    Tip2: Check the price matching policy of each and every store prior to shopping. Walmart has an incredibly lenient price match policy but Target is rather strict.

    There is really no excuse to pay full price for a ton of items. Download some mobile apps today and start saving!

  5. Costco

    July 18, 2014 by admin

    We recently rejoined Costco after letting our membership slip for a few years.  We are glad to be back.IMG_6756

    Costco offers two things we are always looking for in a store: good pricing and a fun experience.

    We love going to Costco. There are lots of things beyond food to check out, and usually an assortment free samples to snack on. Whenever there is food involved, our kiddoes are up for whatever you have to offer. So we never hear a complaint about going to Costco.

    Tip: Give the store a half hour or so after opening to get their sample stations set up. If you arrive right when the doors open, you won’t get any free snacks.

    Now, on pricing, it can get a bit tricky. You’ll need to keep your head and do the math to make sure you are getting a good value. $9.50 for two pounds of good quality, whole bean coffee? That’s way better than the typical supermarket price. $14 for two liters of Olive Oil? Well, we can buy 1 Liter for $5.50 at our local supermarket, so we’ll pass. If you check your prices carefully, you’ll end up saving a ton at Costco.

    Tip 2: There is an annual membership fee (about $65), so make sure you will go shopping often enough to get your value out before you decide to sign up.

    Examples of things we buy frequently at Costco at a good price: nuts, crackers, soups, coffee, cheese, and frozen veggies.

    Remember that you will need to be able to store all the food you purchase at your house.  And you’ll need to eat it before it goes bad. Don’t get caught up in bulk shopping if you can’t manage the storage and consumption issues. We are tempted by, but avoid, huge sacks of flour and rice that seem like a good value, but would surely go to waste before we could use it all up. Likewise, until we get a bigger freezer, we can’t take advantage of too many bulk frozen food deals.

    But if you watch the pricing, and buy what you will eat, Costco is a great place to add to your repertoire of shopping places.

  6. Someone’s Trash Is Someone Else’s Treasure

    June 15, 2014 by admin


    Garage sale season is in full swing.  One of our favorite things is when an entire neighborhood chooses to hold a sale.  Then we can just park our bikes, or our cars, and walk from house to house as we search for goodies.

    Recently, we rode our bicycles down to nearby Marquette.  It was a beautiful, sunny day and lots of items called out to us from driveways and grassy lawns.  AndIMG_6374 then we found it!  A waffle maker.  Plum had been asking for a waffle maker for quite some time but the we just couldn’t justify the expense.  At $1 and a reassurance from the seller that it worked perfectly (not always a guaranty), we picked up a Toastmaster Belgian Waffler – directions included!

    We’d never made waffles from scratch.  We searched out a recipe for the batter and then greased and warmed up our waffler.  Around 3 minutes after pouring in the batter, our first waffle was ready. Delicious!

    A simple garage sale find has allowed us to expand our breakfast offerings, to the particular delight of our Plum.  We can’t wait to experiment with all sorts of waffle variations.


  7. Little Saver

    June 11, 2014 by admin

    We’ve been teaching our young Bluey the value of saving his money.

    We recently got a bank account for Bluey and Plum when our bank opened a branch within walking distance of our home. So we periodically take a walk to the bank and deposit a few dollars that we hope will pile up into something big in their future.IMG_6330

    But we’ve also been tackling the other end of the saving spectrum: purchasing. We’re trying to help our Bluey learn not to blow through all of his spending money every time he has a few beans in his pocket.

    What if, instead of buying a thing you don’t really want so much, you saved your money until another time? Then you could buy yourself one of the bigger ticket items that has caught your eye.

    So far, the process is working pretty well. Bluey has a piggy bank allocated for short-term savings goals.  When he skips buying a small toy, he puts his money in there. He’s starting to see that if he foregoes a few purchases, he can later afford something really, really cool.

    It’s a start. We know Bluey will still be attracted to nifty little things at various gift shops and stores we visit.  But our hope is that with each purchase deferred, he’ll learn more clearly the value of saving up for the things that really matter to him.

  8. New Musical Express

    April 4, 2014 by admin

    images-1New Musical Express, once the go-to magazine for news about the hottest bands in the UK, is now host to a great website that includes tons of news articles, retrospectives, free album streaming, and free downloadable Mp3s.

    NME (as those “in the know” call it) is one of the largest online music magazines these days!  And did we mention the free music?

    Only trouble is, freebies aren’t grouped together into one single part of the site.  So the best way to find the many free tunes is to head over to NME, and type ‘free mp3’ into the search window and marvel at all the posts that pop up.

    Just today we found remixes of Roxy Music, 19 free songs from London-based record label Something In Construction, and songs from The Weather and Seven Saturdays.

    Although NME is a UK magazine, the music reviews and downloads are not all British bands- indeed the last two bands noted above are from Portland, OR and LA, respectively.

    So put NME in your bookmark file, and check in regularly.  You are bound to find some great new music (along with keeping up to date on the latest in music news- like Kate Bush doing live shows! )250px-Nme_cover


  9. You Dirty Dog!

    March 30, 2014 by admin

    IMG_0640Spring has finally sprung!  (We hope!)

    If you have a dog, then spring brings muddy feet, muddy tails and various seeds and such caught in the fur.  Your fuzzy friend has become a mucky, smelly mess.

    For some, this means scheduling a trip to the dog groomer to get your puppy cleaned up and smelling nice.  Sometimes the cost of a groomer is prohibitive.  Other times you find that the day after you take the pup to the groomer, she decides to roll in a dead fish at the park.

    If you don’t want to trash your bathroom giving your furry friend a bath, you may be looking for someplace else to wash your dog.   It’s still too cold to hose her down in the yard, but there is a great solution out there- find a self-service dog-wash.

    There are several of these businesses in our area- just google ‘dog wash’ for a list.  We found a great one at Dog Lovers.IMG_1590

    Dog Lovers has two raised tubs to wash your dog.  There are movable steps to help your dog get safely in and out of the tub.  They offer shampoo, towels, and cotton balls for ear cleaning (though you can bring your own supplies!).  The bath has a temperature controlled hose and leash clips if needed.  For after bath, they have a grooming table and brushes available for you to use at no additional charge.

    We had a great experience there.  Bluey used the steps to get in on the washing project, and we were able to get our Moo good and lathered up before rinsing her off.

    Tip: Since Dog Lovers is also a full scale groomer, they offer reasonably priced additional services, like nail trimming, if you find you need to further pamper or care for your pup.

    For just $8 we went home with a clean, happy dog.  We had a fun time taking care of her without worries about clogging our tub drain or trashing our bathroom.

  10. Dream Bikes

    March 23, 2014 by admin

    Oh, those growing kids!  With her ever-increasing height, our Plum needed a new bicycle for this spring.

    So the search was on for the most affordable bike- something she’d be happy with, that would be reliable, and hopefully would allow her some room to grow.  We take a rather meticulous path to finding the best value for a major purpose, so we started checking out the stores that might have inexpensive models.  We also started looking about for any used bikes that were on the market.IMG_1600

    We stopped at a great local bicycle shop in our neighborhood- Revolution Cycles!  We love the crew at Revolution, and knew they would help us out.  They made a few recommendations about what size bike would work for our Plum.  But unfortunately, they were currently sold out of used bikes that would fit her.

    What to do?  We asked Revolution for ideas and they immediately suggested Dream Bikes.

    Dream Bikes is a non-profit that situates their stores in underserved neighborhoods.  They take in used bikes, fix them up and sell them to the public, using the profits from the sales to offer good jobs and training to local teens who make the repairs and run the bike shops.

    We headed over to Dream Bikes and were astounded by the great selection and service we found.  Our salesperson, David, was patient with our Plum, listening to her wants and showing her a number of bikes that he thought might fit the bill.  Her final choice- a vintage Schwinn Mirada (the same model TRDad rode for over a decade)- was decked out with a rear double basket and a horn, all for an amazingly low price.IMG_5237

    We can’t recommend Dream Bikes enough to anyone in the Madison or Milwaukee areas looking for a new bike.  We are thrilled to have found a place offering great bikes at fantastic prices that provides excellent service and contributes to the community.