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8/27/14

What Are You Going To Do All Day?

"What are you going to do all day now that you have all this free time while the kids are in full-day kindergarten?"

I've heard that quite a bit in the last few months as we told people our kids were entering full-day kindergarten. Well, as I am still wiping away tears just three days after the start of the school year, I am not in a huge rush to decide what I am going to do. 

I asked my husband if he had any expectations of me finding a part-time job right away and he said he wasn't in any rush. We discussed it further and realized there are several advantages of me being the stay-at-home parent for a bit longer, at least through the fall/winter holidays.

One of the main advantages is that I can now tackle our money-saving and home improvement to-do lists. The projects that have been sidelined for the past five years simply because I couldn't always focus my energies on phone calls/estimates/negotiations while caring for our twin boys. My plan is to have a detailed project list by mid-September, but that hasn't stopped me from making preliminary calls on a few projects.

First up, finding the best trash services rate. I know, you were expecting something more exciting, but hear me out.
Photo credit: RepublicServices.com
Our trash/recycling service with Republic Services (previously Allied Waste) has increased from $88.50 to $111 in the last 18 months. That is steep and sneaky since I opted for auto-pay (auto-pay is not all that convenient if it costs me to miss those sneaky increases).  Before the big increase, they did come door-to-door offering to lock us in for $97.50 for the next three years.  The lock-in made me think twice and I made a mental note to research other companies. Meanwhile, the boys needed something and magically, POOF!, that thought was soon forgotten.

Now, I would be more understanding if I knew everyone in my community was getting similar rates.  Unfortunately, there are sizable discrepancies between rates, even within the same company for the same service in similar communities.  How do I know?  Well, I posted about it on a local Facebook page and I found some very interesting information - others are paying as little as $51/quarter.

So, today, while the kids are in school and I can have an uninterrupted phone conversation, I started on my quest and called a local competitor. They quoted me $72/quarter, which was higher than what the Facebook page members had quoted as their rates with that same company.  I immediately posted the following comment on the Facebook post:   

"Very interesting. I called Penn Container today and asked for their residential rate - $72/qtr. Big difference from the $51 and $62 quoted above. Well, at least that is better than Republic's $111/qtr."

Shortly after I posted that comment, I started writing this post.  As I am writing, my husband calls to say Republic just called him (cue Twilight Zone music) and offered us a new quarterly rate of $66 and they would credit our account the difference for this quarter since we had already paid this quarter's $111.  That is an annual savings of $180!


Coincidence that we got a call within minutes of my comment on the Facebook page (mind you, it was not the company's Facebook page, but a local message board page)???  Hmm, I am not so sure, but regardless, I now have a lower rate effective immediately and now I can cross that item off my list. 




 



8/14/14

Facebook Frugal Finds: Ethan Allen Leather Ottoman

Another installment of Facebook Frugal Finds, where you share whether my Facebook purchase was a Deal or No Deal.

When I originally saw this ottoman posted on Facebook, I immediately thought of a friend who recently mentioned she was looking for a ottoman.  I always try to look out for my friends, so I expressed interest (second in line) and sent the picture, description and price to my friend.  She declined because the size wouldn't work.  I normally would have removed my "interested" comment, but decided to leave it, figuring the first person was not going to pass on this deal: 

Ethan Allen leather footstool, GUC - $35
Well, surprise, surprise, the first person passed and now it was my turn. 
Hmmm . . . . I did like the color and condition, the size would work, the price was fair.    Okay, I would try to see if we were meetup compatible and inquire if there were any tears/stains not visible in the picture.  The seller acknowledged that there is a tear in the lining underneath the ottoman, but otherwise, in very good condition.  I have purchased from this seller before, so I felt confident her disclosure was forthright.

Our schedules led us to a pick-up today at her home . . . in DE.  The item was posted on a local site, so I negotiated a lower price for home pick-up.  Even though the location was a good 30 minutes away, I was able to easily add in a playground/picnic visit for the boys at a nearby park.  

As it sits in my living room (a.k.a. the parlor in our house), I did notice the shape is a bit off and it is not perfectly rectangular. 
Can you see the slight curve inwards at the top?
I don't feel it is a big deal, especially since the lighting is usually dim in the parlor anyway.  For less than $35, I am thrilled!  As usual, I did my research via Ethan Allen's website and found a similar model on clearance, starting at  . . . $609.
Note to self:  Fix the crazy curtains next photo op.
So, what do you think?  Deal or No Deal?

8/4/14

Thrift Organizing - Goodbye Toy Shelf Bin Organizers

I am finally selling my Toy Shelf Organizers.  I am tired of looking at the messy contents on display all day and tired of the bins falling down. This one is pending pick-up for this Wed. (yes!)

I have another one, but I don't have a full set of bins, so I am trying to sell just the shelf itself. So far, no takers.  I might just have to add in the bins I have and sell at a discount.  I had changed this white shelf into a gift wrap station (click here to read all about it) and then a craft station, so I feel good that I maximized its versatility.
Now what do I do with all the toys that once occupied those bins??  Well, I purchased a few organizers off of the local Facebook Yard Sale page.  The deal was good, but would have been better if they were a tad bit cleaner (ugh!).  

After a good scrubbing, I decided which toys would be housed in the drawers.  Now, since these are not "clear" drawers, I had to label them, something I had never done before (why I don't know - everyone else does it!).  So, I put the items in the drawer, took a pic, attached the pic to a Word document, printed, then cut/taped to the drawers.  j volunteered to help me (he has my organizing gene).  Now, the boys know where to put back their toys and a super bonus with these drawers, they don't come out.  No more dumping of the entire drawer on the floor.  Ahhh!!!

Close up of one of the drawer picture labels.

Yes, the boys couldn't wait to play with the toys I had just organized.

 



8/1/14

#CampMom - Community Day

After traveling all over for days, I decided that Friday, the last day of #CampMom would be all about keeping it local in our own community -#playlocal, #givelocal, and #buylocal.

#PlayLocal
 We started off with some playground action at Nichol Park.   Thankfully, we didn't plan to stay too long before our next stop, because for some reason, the vibe of the playground just wasn't jiving with us.  Normally, we have a great time at this park and have met and made many a friend.  However, today it was a bit too hands on (both my kids were pushed forcefully for no reason) and a bit of bullying (yes, you will play bad guys with us even if you tell us "no" nicely, several times) made my Momma Bear come out.  Okay, not a good start to our last day of #CampMom.  I was really hoping the #givelocal stop would put us back on a positive vibe.

#GiveLocal
Adjoining Nichol Park is a small animal rescue, CompAnimals (1499 Flint Hill Rd, Landenberg, PA), run completely by volunteers.  I had emailed them to ask if we could donate some old towels and visit with the cats up for adoption.  My boys haven't had a lot of community service experience, so I thought this might be an easy start. 

CompAnimals has both cats and dogs available for adoption, but we are more of a cat family so we chose to visit with the feline residents. We talked about how some of the cats ended up at the rescue and how people, like us, donate items to help care for the animals.  I explained that after our cat, Jack, died, I donated his leftover food, medications, litter, etc. to CompAnimals.  The boys were really enjoying all the different kinds of cats, from small kittens to large adult cats, with all different markings, expressions, and meowing. 

I told the boys that cats choose their owners and before long, m and j had been chosen by Moo.  Moments later, I was chosen by a very shy cat, Tobie.  The volunteer was a bit surprised since Tobie rarely peeked out for visitors.  Coincidentally, or not, Moo and Tobie came into the rescue together, after their elderly human parent could no longer care for them. Interesting how both cats "chose" us.  I am hoping that, perhaps when we are ready, maybe Moo and Tobie can come home to our house.  Meanwhile, I think I may ask to be a volunteer so I may get a chance to cuddle with them until they find forever homes. Here is a link to their Facebook page - CompAnimals Pet Rescue.

Moo - such a cutie! 

Photo credit: CompAnimals

#BuyLocal
We are fortunate to be so close to a corner candy store that not only features specialty candies, made-to-order confections, nostalgia candies, but they also sell ice cream and water ices.  In the past, we have enjoyed a cone on their wraparound porch.   After the boys behaved so well at CompAnimals, I felt a little treat was in order.

Candy for All Occasions (2049 Newark Rd, New London, PA) offers such variety that the boys had trouble choosing.  I finally said to choose 3 items.  Candy in the shape of Legos or gummy sharks or marshmallow puffs or racing cars with candy inside????  The choices!!  

This is their new "pretzel cone".  Mmmm, might have to go back again!
Photo credit: Candy For All Occasions (Facebook)


#CampMom Frugality Review:
Nichol Park:  FREE fresh air and exercise
CompAnimal Rescue: FREE animal cuddliness
Candy for All Occasions:  $10 for tasty confections for two very happy boys




7/31/14

#CampMom - Kids Choice Day

It's Thursday of #CampMom week and we decided to do a Kids Choice day.  One child wanted to play miniature golf and the other wanted to do something related to trains.  I decided we could accomplish both with a trip to Lancaster, PA for miniature golf at Leisure Bowling and Golf Center and then to Strasburg, PA for train fun at the National Toy Train Museum.

We headed to Leisure Golf first as it was the furthest away (1 hour from our house) and I wanted to enjoy the golf before it got too toasty.   Since we pass by Michael's Homestyle Breads on the way to Lancaster, we did a quick stop to buy their amazing cinnamon raisin bread and tasty sand tarts.  We had to do that stop first, because the bakery would be closed by the time we headed back home.  Priorities, right??

Lancaster has a few miniature golf places, but I chose Leisure Bowling and Golf Center for their Safari course and their prices.  $3 a game for the kids and just $4 for adults.  This time I just had the boys play and saved myself the $4.  In case you are interested in checking them out, here are some cool specials they are featuring:
1) Family Day - Wednesdays 9AM-4PM (6/11 - 8/6)
    Bowling $1.00 per game per person
    Shoe Rental $1.00                         
    Mini-Golf $1.00      
    Hot dog & soda $1.00
2) Anniversary Special
    Watch for details about our 55th anniversary.
    August 15, 16, 17th  $.55 bowling, shoe rentals, mini-golf games and hot dog & soda. 
    Also driving range token for $.55.  

No hole in one here, but j did get one later!

After mini-golf, we made our way to lunch, but I had to check out That Pet Place.
The place is huge and carries an eclectic assortment of animals (ferrets to tarantulas). We only made it half way through the store because j was HUNGRY, but we did get to check out this.

If you are in the area, definitely stop in to check out the pet stores of all pet stores. 

A short stop at Sonic for our first drive-in meal.
Now, we were ready for the National Toy Train Museum.  Kids under age 6 are free and I paid $7 (ages 13-65). We normally would have gone to the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania, but our membership expired and I am not sure how often we would visit in the upcoming year with the boys being in school full-time and their love of trains waning (sniff!). Although they had an okay time with the model railroad displays and being able to push buttons to activate the trains/accessories, I am not sure we would go again.  If it weren't for the play train table in the lobby, we would have left after 15 minutes.

All in all, another successful #CampMom day.  Also, if we decide to do another Lancaster trip, I found a packet of coupons under my tire before we left the National Toy Train Museum's parking lot.  A sign??

#CampMom Frugality Review:
Cinnamon Bread & Sand Tarts: $10
Miniature Golf: $6
That Pet Place: FREE
Lunch at Sonic: $13
National Toy Train Museum: $7
Total: $36
(Yes, next time we'll pack a lunch or eat at Leisure Golf!)