Today’s post will be brief…….

19 years ago I gave birth to a beautiful, talented, amazing, loving, caring, soul that I named Coral.   I have had the privilege of being her mother…. watching her grow and learn…. fall and get up again….. fail and succeed….. question and get answers…. cry and laugh….. get hurt and be loved.   As much as I have taught her, she has taught me as well.

I love you Coral….. Happy Birthday!

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I am always in amazement that a lot of people do not know about BTFE (Box Tops For Education).  Box Tops for Education has helped America’s schools earn over $400 million since 1996. You can earn cash for your child’s school by clipping Box Tops coupons from hundreds of participating products. Box Tops also offers easy ways to earn even more cash for your school online.

You can get more info on this program and also see a list of participating products by clicking on this link:

http://www.boxtops4education.com/earn/clip/Brands.aspx

So many people still throw out the boxtops (really they are not whole boxtops, just little pink squares pretty much like the one pictured above).  It is easy to clip them and save them for your child’s school.  They earn 10 cents per boxtop turned in.  I do not know of a school that does not participate in this program.  If you don’t have a school aged child, then give them to your grandkids or neighbor’s kids to turn in.

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Just a thought here…….

Last year when it came time for back to school shopping, I did the usual inventory of the kiddos clothing so I would not be purchasing unneeded items.  Shelby still had two really nice pairs of sneakers in her closet with lots of wear left in them. I could not justify buying her another pair since those still fit.  They were a little dirty and, since I had nothing to lose, I just threw them into the washing machine in a bleach load.  I air dried them and they came out looking GREAT!  They ended up going thru another school year without needing to buy another pair for her!

Two years ago when I bought Ben’s back to school sneakers, I actually bought two pairs.  I had found some sneakers for him on clearance for $5 per pair.  I bought one pair for him to wear that year and then also bought another pair in the next size up that he used the following year.  Since he is so rough on shoes, he went thru that pair and we had to get him another pair a few months ago to get him thru the school year.  Since that pair is still in pretty good shape, I did a bleach load of all the sneakers tonight and will see how much longer those will last him.

So, all of that said, after hearing a rumour online about sneaker sales at Walmart, I ventured out with the kiddos to see what deals we could find!  We lucked out! I ended up spending $48  for a pair of leggings and two bras for Shelby as well as four pairs of sneakers ( two pairs of Danskin sneakers for Shelby and a pair of Starter sneakers and also a pair of Iron Man sneakers for Ben).  YES!  What a blessing!  $48 is less than most places want for just one pair of sneakers!

Even though my kiddos are a few years apart, Shelby and Ben usually wear the same sock size.  Since they both like the white, low cut socks, I just buy one large pack of socks for them to share.  This saves a few dollars too and every bit counts when it’s back to school time!

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One of my favorite quotes, from the movie “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”:

“For what it’s worth, it’s never too late, or too early, to be whoever you want to be.  There’s no time limit.  Start whenever you want.  You can change or stay the same.  There are no rules to this thing.  We can make the best or the worst of it.  I hope you make the best of it.  I hope you see things that startle you.  I hope you feel things you never felt before.  I hope you meet people with a different point of view.  I hope you live a life you’re proud of.  And, if you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.”

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We don’t have a dishwasher.  In all honesty, the times I have had a dishwasher we just never used it enough to justify even having it.  I can’t understand how it is useful when you have to rinse the dishes off anyhow.  So, I have pretty much always done dishes by hand.

Some people prefer to wash the dishes as they dirty.  Simply putting soap on the sponge and washing them a few at a time.  While it does get the dishes clean, it tends to use too much water and soap. 

When I was a kid, one of my chores was to do the dishes after dinner every night.  The procedure was as follows (we had a sink with two sides) :  fill one side of the sink with hot soapy water (use the drain plug) and put the dishes in the water to soak for just a few minutes.  Wash them and put them into the empty side of the sink.  Then rinse them all off and put them in the dish drain or on a towel to dry.  This is still how I prefer to do dishes to this day.

The beauty of this system is that if I run the sink of soapy water in the morning, the dishes can just be added to the water as the day goes on and I do one big load of dishes after dinner.  It takes very little time. 

Aside from saving on water and soap, this also helps keep my hands in good condition (I have eczema flareups on my hands and they hurt really bad if I am not careful).  Also, a sink full of soapy water with the dishes under the bubbles looks a lot better than a sink full of dirty dishes with food stuck on them!

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Do you fill out those store surveys that seem to be on every store receipt these days?  I do!  You never know when you might win!  Most of the prizes are pretty big ($1,000 or so) and that would be a welcome addition to my income!

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I have been a member of Vocal point for a few months now and it is definitely worth the effort to sign up.  It is FREE!  In the past month I have gotten free trash bags (the Hefty ones with Frebreeze scents), a free bag of the new marshmallows made specifically for S’mores, a free coupon to try the new Bounce dryer bar, free coupon for Fresh Express Salads and a few other goodies!

I HIGHLY suggest you register today because the rumor mill is saying there will be a GREAT NEW offering on Tuesday!

You can register here:

 www.vocalpoint.com/registration/screener.aspx

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Pretty lazy Friday around here - it is just too hot to do too much these days!  So after cleaning up around the house, the kiddos and I ventured out to run errands. First stop was Blockbuster so they could swap out their movies (for free!) from our Club Wannawatchamovie memberships.  If you missed my post on that, you can read it here:  http://occupiedlife.com/2011/07/18/summer-school/

Then we stopped at Winn Dixie where I scored 4 boxes of Snackwell cereal bars (2 boxes of Peanut Butter and two boxes of Chocolate) and two boxes of family sized Pillsbury brownie mix.  Before coupons & deals the total was :  $17.94!  After deals, coupons, etc.  my total spent is 0.99!  YEAH!  Ninety nine cents!  How did that happen….. here is what I did (I used two transactions for this):

Transaction #1    

bought two boxes brownie mix (on sale bogo and had a .40 cents off coupon)

bought two boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices: 11.36 * after coupons and sale prices I paid $4.49 out of pocket AND I got a $3 catalina coupon back for my next shopping trip

Transaction #2

bought two more boxes Snackwell bars (on sale for $2 each and also had a .75 cents off coupon for each one)

total before coupons and sale prices:  $6.58 * total after coupons and sale prices I paid $2.50 AND I got another $3 catalina coupon

Total out of pocket for both orders was $6.99 AND I got the $6 in catalinas for the next time I am at Winn Dixie.  I did not try to use the catalina coupons today because sometimes if you use a like coupon for your order and those items are in the order, you will NOT get another coupon.  Not sure if I explained that clearly or not but basically you usually cannot “roll” catalina coupons because they won’t print other ones for you.

Winn Dixie also has the new Cocoa Puffs Brownie Crunch cereal on sale for $2 each box and a few weeks ago there were .75 cents off one box coupons that came out in the newspaper.  I got four boxes a few days ago for $1.25 each but just thought I’d put that in here so you can snag that deal too if you venture over there.

After that excitement :-D   we headed over to Cold Stone Creamery to use a $20 gift certificate that I got a few months ago over on LivingSocial.com   I paid $10 for the $20 gift certificate and so all four of us got HUGE portions of ice cream with one mix in each!  Total there was -0.04 cents!  LOL!  Not kidding, the total was NEGATIVE 4 cents!  I just let them keep the four cents.

Then we headed home to settle down in ice cream bliss while some homemade pizza dough is getting ready in the bread machine for dinner and movie night later today.  Since I had all the ingredients on hand (flour, yeast, etc) and I use leftover spaghetti sauce for pizza sauce, the only real cost to me for making a pizza is the cheese which I try to get on sale for $1.50 or less per 8 oz bag. Even cheaper than the $5 pizza deals at the chain pizza places!

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Recently I have been talking to a lot of people about the amount of money spent on groceries and household items.  This topic is really interesting to me because I am an avid couponer. 

For our household of four, I budget $50 per week for groceries and other household stuff (paper towels, toilet paper, toothpaste, laundry detergent, etc).  To me that is a reasonable amount.  Easily do-able.  Sure more money would be nice, but right now that’s what my budget allows.

When we are at the store and my kiddos ask for something that is not on the list or not in the budget, I explain to them that we spend less per month at the store than some people spend in a week.  Shelby gets a real kick out of seeing the before and after coupon totals.  I really enjoy that part too!  Usually they are so excited about whatever snack items were on sale that week that they don’t miss what we did not buy!

 

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I have been buying and selling items online since 1999.  Unfortunately for me (and my budget) I am a confessed bibliophile.  I LOVE books!  Going into the bookstore is a very, very bad idea for me.  It is difficult to go in there and leave without spending at least $100.    My FAVORITE online shopping site is:

www.half.com

Years ago, when half had just started, they only sold books and they had to be priced less than half of the retail price (yeah, that’s how they came up with the name).  Prices went SO low on some books that they were a penny.  Eventually Ebay bought half.com and instituted a minimum price of 75 cents and items can be priced at any price above that.  Half.com now sells books, music, video games, dvd’s, vhs tapes , game systems, game controllers, all sorts of stuff. 

The neat thing about half.com is that it is a hybrid between an auction site and a store.  The items are offered at fixed prices, by individual sellers, but half.com acts as a middle man of sorts.  They process all the payments and the seller ships the items to the buyer.  Half pays out to the sellers twice a month and they include a shipping allowance for the seller as well.

I purchase all of my items thru half.com now.  It is really very rare that I need to go to a bookstore to buy an  item.  I know I will probably be able to find it for under a dollar (plus shipping) on half.com.  I buy things for myself and also as gifts there.  I make sure to select “Like New” items from sellers with good feedback so that I make sure to give a nice gift. 

I also sell my items on half too.  My kids know when they are tired of a video game, we can sell it on half and they can make some money back to get a new game.  They make more money per game online than they could ever make trading it in at the game stores.

If you have an Ebay account, that is the same login info for half.com.  Hop over and try it out!  See what you could be saving on your entertainment purchases!

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