Thursday, October 9, 2008

Tips and Tricks Volume One

In these tough economic times, which we all know increases stress levels in every area of our lives; I thought I'd take this post to share some helps and tips for both parenting and saving the bank account that have worked in my home. I will be adding to these Tips and Tricks from time to time, so this is Volume One.

Do any of you have a child like mine that likes to 'rock' their crib or playpen across the room? My son does this in his playpen (as he is his mother's child!) in order to get over to the dvd cabinet and *ahem* explore... I did it in my crib to get over to another piece of furniture in the room in order to climb out. With the wheels on these items, it is very easy for a strong bodied and strong willed child to go where they want to with some effort. This new ability your child has discovered has the potential to be dangerous. After a couple of sucked-on dvd's and cases, I came up with a full proof cure. Take a pair of old sneakers (whatever you have as long as they are flat rubber soles and have traction) and put the wheels of one short-side of the furniture into the foot holes. Viola! No more cross room adventures. And since you already have the shoes, it doesn't cost a thing. If you're not thrilled with the way it looks, make sure you put the bulk of the foot toward the inside so all you see is the heel.

To save money on household items, I recommend joining one of the warehouse type bulk stores. Yes, the membership is $30 (or more) per year, I know. However, what you save will make up for it. Also, DO NOT do all of your shopping there. A lot of things are a waste of money unless you are stocking supplies for a huge amount of people or are getting the items in order to prepare to cook for a church social or block party. Honestly, just because the 3 lb. tub of mayo is only $6, it's a waste if it doesn't get used before it goes bad, not to mention the hassle of trying to fit it in the fridge. Only buy things from these places that A. you use all the time and B. don't expire; diapers and baby wipes, paper towels, garbage bags, toilet paper, Ziploc bags, laundry detergent, fabric softener... These are all great buys at these places. You will get more at a lower per-unit cost and you will use it... eventually. But also a word of warning, don't get sucked in by the 'great price' of anything. Remember to keep in mind how much of something you can store in your home. You don't want to have to navigate around 1000 rolls of paper towels for the next year. Which brings me to my next tip...

When shopping ALWAYS, ALWAYS, ALWAYS make a list; and then stick to it. With this list in mind, you can budget your shopping and have a very good idea what you will spend before you even set foot in the store. Always round up when you price the items on your list. This will allow you to compensate for taxable items. You would be amazed if you went back through last year's receipts of the stores you shop regularly, and figured out all the money you spent on impulse buys. The store marketers are betting that the 'great deal' on the end cap of the aisle or in the checkout line will have you saying, "it's only a few extra bucks", then adding it to your cart. Add up that 'few extra bucks' at the end of a year and it could be hundreds. The only thing that you should add to your list when you are in the store is something that you already use with extreme regularity. Maybe you forgot to put it on the list, maybe you thought you had enough, but the store has it at a super price and you really would save in the long run by buying it now. If you are tempted to add something you normally wouldn't buy, try this; write it out on your list, with the price. Continue shopping without adding it to your cart. See what you'd have to cut from your list to get the item and still complete the shopping in the allotted budget. Sometimes just taking the time to write the item on the list will bring you to your senses. Other times, the 'high' of the deal will fade as you walk away. And other times, you will still decide to go back and get it. That's fine, I'm just saying you should give it some consideration, before mindlessly tossing things into the basket and then finding yourself staring at the checkout person blankly as she states your total as $200 when all you went into the store for was a gallon of milk and a loaf of bread.

Check out bulk items for things you use with regularity. If you always pack chips in with the lunches, it would be much more cost effective to get some Ziploc bags and a family sized bag of chips and doing the separating yourself. You will spend on average an extra 8 cents per ounce for a few minutes of convenience. If you make up all the small bags at once from the larger family sized bag, it only takes about 5 minutes, the chips stay just as fresh and you have the convenience you were looking for in the single serving packs you were buying. And remember to figure in all of the bags of chips those Ziplocs will make when figuring cost. It may seem the same price on the first round, but the next 3-5 (or more) times you only have to buy the chips... now do the math. You save. A lot.

A bulk item that I only recently discovered... Gatorade. You can get Gatorade in a tin of powder that makes 6 gallons for about $9. That is 24 of the 32 oz bottles. That is huge! One of those 32 oz bottles is between 79 and 99 cents each when they are on sale! Normally they're over $1.50 each. At regular cost you spend $9 on only 6, yes, SIX of those 32 oz bottles. What I did for hubby, was bought about 6 of the 32 ouncers when they were on sale. After he drank them up, I washed out the containers and started rotating them, refilling them with the made-from-powder Gatorade, and sending him to work with one a day in the summer. That savings all by itself, paid one phone bill.

Another tip for around the house about separating bulk meat... I do it at the kitchen table, because my sink is too small (or full) when I go to do this chore. It used to make the biggest mess and I had to worry about not fully getting rid of the germs and viruses on the table surface
because I have a glass and wood table. Now, I take plastic wrap and cover my table where I'm going to be working, tucking the ends under the table edge. When I've finished with all of the meat, I simply pull off the plastic wrap, making sure to fold the ends in on each other so none of the drippings spill, and throw it away. This took a lot of the hassle and worry out of this chore for me.

These are just a few that I use. If you have some great tips to share, please leave a comment and share with us all! Great day and good luck everyone.


Carol said...

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1stopmom said...

You hit the nail on the head with these tips. Whenever I do not go shopping with a list I always blow my budget! It took me a while to learn about warehouse shopping though. I have bought my fair share of 50 packs of gum, 20 pound bags of sugar, and enormous cans of baked beans. Now I only go to buy things in bulk that I know is a great price.

Ross Diamond said...

Really great story about bulk shopping and adventures with kids. I guess that's some of what we have in store for us - we have twins (1 boy, 1 girl) who will be one year old this week. How old are yours? I do feel some sense of accomplishment having survived our first year with twins and no disasters. Our little boy is going to be a handful - he crawls pretty quick now, can pull himself up to standing position easily, and grabs at everything.
And I absolutely agree - I could not handle taking care of them full time for any amount of money (we have a nanny). I love them more than anything, yet they are a lot of work. My wife and I have often said, 'gee, this would be much easier with just one baby at a time'. On the other hand, they often play with each other and smile and laugh - those moments are so sweet, it truly is 'double the fun!'
We also renewed our Costco membership just over a year ago - as some friends of ours said, 'you'll save the membership cost ($50) just on diapers and wipes'. That is definitely true; the twins also drank mostly formula, which is much cheaper at Costco.
We get a few other items there as well, and you are right on about making a list and not just jumping at every great deal. Even if you can store it and it's not perishable, you're buying in much larger quantities and your bill can add up quickly.
Ross Diamond