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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When school ended this year, Shelby went to her “Fifth Grade Graduation”.  The theme was “Hollywood: Black & White”.  It was a very red carpet affair, complete with “swag bags” full of goodies from local merchants.  Shelby came home very excited!  She was showing me all the stuff she got in her bag and then pulled out a PILE of coupons for free stuff!  I asked her “Where did all those come from?”  She replied “My friends didn’t want them and were throwing them away so I brought them home for us to use!”  She had coupons for free Italian Ice, pizza, Chick Fil A, bowling, Wendy’s, etc.  I would say she brought home about $100 worth of coupons! 

A few weeks ago, Ben still had $20 of birthday money that was burning a hole thru his pocket.  We were near a GameStop store and he wanted to go in. I happened to have a “buy two used games and get one free” coupon on me, so I said okay.  He could pick out two games $10 or less each and then he agreed to let Shelby pick a game too (the free one).  So, we spread out all the used Wii games that were under $10 on the floor.  Ben picked two and Shelby picked out one.  The total was $24 and change. Ben paid with his $20 and I paid with the coupon and the balance of $4 and change.

A few days later, Ben comes to me and says “Mom can we go get more games from GameStop?”  I explained to him that he used all his birthday money and we had no more money for games.  He said to me, “Oh yeah.  You gotta have dollars or COUPONS to get the games, right Mom?”  OMG!  I fell over laughing!

The moral of the story is if you don’t believe that your children are watching and paying attention to everything you do, then YOU aren’t paying attention:-D

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Some of my favorite memories from my childhood were also some of the most unusual times of my life.  When I was in elementary school, my mother worked for an answering service at night.  She worked the 11 pm – 7 am shift.  Since my father traveled for work a lot, she occasionally had to take my sister and I to work with her.  We were both in elementary school at the time.  I remember sleeping behind the huge switchboards. I remember getting dressed for school in the bathroom down the hall from the office.  I remember stopping for Krisy Kreme donuts on the way to school in the morning! 

In that tradition, I try to do “unusual” things with my kiddos every once in a while.  Last summer we went out to the beach at 10 pm at night.  I let them swim in the dark, vast ocean.  There were no crowds, no heat, no parking issues.  They thoroughly enjoyed it!  On the way back home we stopped for ice cream.  They still talk about it to this day.

A lot of times when Shelby asks what we are doing or where we are going and I tell her of my big plans, she says “Mom, you’re crazy!”  I just know that you gotta keep ‘em on their toes!

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I am not brand loyal.  I buy whatever brand is cheapest and will meet my needs.  Buying food that no one will eat is a waste of money no matter how you look at it.  Keeping that in mind, there are two things that I will not buy a generic of:

Kraft Mac & Cheese * okay, do I really need to explain this?  I am not a mac & cheese fan of any kind but my kids WILL NOT eat generic mac & cheese no matter what!  After tasting the generic and the Kraft brand, I can’t say that I blame them 

Natures Own buttertop  bread * we love this bread!  Generics just can’t hold a candle to how soft this bread is!  My kiddos even eat the crust on this bread!  It is just that soft.

What about you?  Is there anything that you just WON’T buy a generic of?

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Warning….. this may be a long post and possibly boring to anyone who is not interested in the items mentioned in the title of this post!  LOL!

When I moved in with Dane, he had a satellite provider on one tv in the living room.  Thats it.  Nothing else anywhere in the house.  So, he called them and asked about hooking up the bedrooms.  It would cost an extra $200 for installation ?!?!?!?!?!?! and also be about $50 extra per month ?!?!?!?!?!?!?! and that does not include internet because they don’t provide that ?!?!?!?!?!?!  So, I had to come up with an alternate solution.

The kiddos have a Wii in their room so they get the Netflix streaming thru that, because I subscribe to Netflix.  That provides viewing options for them.  That left only our bedroom to find something for.  Enter the Roku.

I had wanted a Roku for a long time and now was the time to purchase one.  I bought the mid-grade one for $80.  It was easy to set up and now we get Netflix streaming along with a few other “channels” in our bedroom. All we had to do was purchase the box.  No monthly fee from them (but I still pay for Netflix, which I was paying for anyhow).  By the way I LOVE the Roku!

Now that Netflix has announced their price increases, I am rethinking my strategy.  We currently have the “2 out at a time plus unlimited streaming” plan which runs about $16 per month.  Soon it will be about $20 per month.  Which isn’t bad but I felt the need to examine my options.

This is how I figured it out:  Netflix at $16 per month was $8 for streaming and $8 for 2 movies out at a time (which for us was 2 per week = 8 movies a month).  That makes the movies about $1 each.  That’s okay.  The same price as Redbox rentals.  But NOW it will be $20 per month, $8 for streaming and $12 is for the 8 movies I get in the mail each month which makes them $1.50 each.  Not okay.  Not the same price as Redbox.  Enter Blockbuster Online………

For $10 a month, I can have one movie dvd out at a time, mailed to me, BUT I can take that movie to the Blockbuster store and turn it in for another movie while I wait for my next movie to be mailed to me.  This means that I will probably be able to get 4 movies a week (2 by mail and 2 in the store) which equals about 16 movies a month for $10!  That sure beats the 8 movies for $12 that Netflix would get me!  Plus no long queue waits for new release movies at Netflix!  I can just pick them up when I trade in my Blockbuster dvd at the store!

So, I think what I will be doing is keeping Netflix streaming for $8 a month and going with Blockbuster Online for dvds.  Total $18 a month.  I save a couple of bucks and I get more movies to watch.

This summer we finally tried Gamefly as a rental service for games for the Wii.  The premise is great!  The problem we had was that just about every game had a wait time.  There were very few “available now” games and that was just frustrating for the kiddos.  When we went to cancel our account, we were offered a “free month” so I accepted that and we will have to see how that goes.  I will say here that we have rented Wii games from Redbox at $2 a night and that worked really well for us!  It is a great way to see if you like a game before actually buying it.  A lot cheaper too!

I think that sums it all up.  Oh, and I went with the local cable provider for internet service because I have to have internet service for ANY of this to work!  LOL!

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So, summer is in full swing and it is HOT outside!  That means heat-rash is just around the corner!  Whoo Hoo!  Fun stuff!  Not.

Over the years we have tried a lot of different remedies for this situation.  The best one, and the only one that works for us, is plain old cornstarch.  Yep.  Even the doctors prescription powders weren’t working but plain cornstarch did the trick.

I keep a shaker container (like the glass ones for parmesean cheese) full of cornstarch in our bathroom.  That way whenever anyone has a heat rash issue, it is ready for use!    Just sprinkle some on your hand and pat it onto the rash and it seems to clear it up in no time.

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My younger kiddos know that when summer rolls around, public school is out.  They also know that we still have school at home over the summer. 

Because of Ben’s autism, I just cannot let three months go by with no type of education.  Losing a quarter of a year is too much time to lose.  He does not qualify for traditional summer school because they feel that there is no chance of “regression over the summer”, so it is up to me to keep the ball rolling.

In order to come up with a plan, I go thru his IEP and make a list of goals the teachers have for him.  Then I look at a special chart I was given that shows what a child should be able to do by certain age groups (like tying shoes, zipping up a coat, helping set the table, taking a bath by themselves, etc – personal care skills and social skills).  So I end up with a master list of goals to work on. 

This summer we are also doing sight-word flash cards (I got a list of these from the internet by searching “first grade sight words”).  We also have a handwriting sheet that has all of the alphabet letters in upper and lower case and the sheet of paper is laminated so he can use a dry erase marker on it and it is reusable.

An important goal we are working on is having Ben memorize our phone number.  I know that once I get it in there, he will remember it!  One fun thing I do to sharpen his memory is I will spray shaving cream all over our dining room table (it is glass topped) or on our tile floor.  We spread the shaving cream out and “write” our phone number or sight words or whatever, in the shaving cream.  He loves this and always has fun making a mess!  Shelby enjoys this too (but she won’t admit it ;-)

I play a lot of board games with the kiddos .  This helps keep skills sharp and encourages them to use new ones.  This summer we have played Uno Stack, Twister, Operation, I Spy, and some other new ones too.  I get the games at thrift stores for about $3 or less each.  I always make sure to check for all the pieces before I buy them.  One recent trip, I drove the lady at the cash register crazy because I insisted on checking to make sure all 60 pieces were there to a  wooden Melissa and Doug dinosaur puzzle.  Who wants a puzzle that is missing a piece????

Shelby is neuro-typical (not disabled).  She plays the games with us, but I have her do extra reading over the summer as well as practice her times tables.  There is always something for her to be brushing up on.  Extra practice never hurts!

Obviously I balance out all this “work” with fun times too.  One day a week is water day.  We go to the public pool, bodysurfing at the beach, tubing at the springs or to the local lake to go swimming.  Sometimes we go to the library and it always seems the kiddos meet up with some of their friends there (or in Ben’s case, make some new friends over in the video game area!). Several times each week we go to Blockbuster so they can trade in their “Camp Wannawatchamovie” movies for new ones (Blockbuster is running a plan that is about $5 per month for one family movie out at a time or $10 for two out at a time, plus the kiddos got free Disney mini-backpacks!) .  Of course we go bowling with the “Kids Bowl Free” program I mentioned in an earlier post (you can use the search box on the right to find it if you haven’t read it yet).  Then there is always the “dollar theatre”  where movies are 75 cents per person to get in on Tuesdays.

I would say that all the extra practice takes maybe an hour out of our day.  It goes by a lot faster than you would think!  It is nice to be able to spend quality time with my kiddos and to know that I am helping them get a head start on the next school year too!  The fact that we always follow it up with something fun, encourages them to get it done ;-)

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A few years ago, I heard a therapist say this simple, life-changing thing.  He said…. “There is no such thing as TRY.  You either are……. or you aren’t………”  

Yep.  That about sums it up.  So, ARE you or AREN’T you ???????

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