Sunday, November 20, 2011

0
DIY Upholstered Headboard

We are going for the romantic retreat in our bedroom- eventually, anyway.  Right now the budget is tight, with baby on the way.  Still, I've been itching to do a padded headboard ever since I first saw a tutorial. 
There are several online, and I read through them all to cobble together what I wanted to do. Here is the finished product:


Breakdown
1 sheet of plywood, cut to size at Lowes- $7
2 yards of 2'' regular density foam from Jo-Ann Fabrics (with coupon) - $14
2 yards of batting - $5
2 yards of 54'' purple chenille fabric from Home Fabrics - $14
10 yards of #5 nickel nailhead trim (This was hard to find! You only need 5 yards, but I'm sending the rest to my Mom as it was cheaper to buy 10 yards on ebay than 5 yards at Jo-Anns.  Best ebay seller- Nails-to-you) - $15.50
Rubber Mallet from Lowes - $5
D-rings from Lowes - $4

Total Cost- $64.50
Total Time- 2-3 hours

If you'd like to do one, here is a collection of the best online tutorials:
Kate from "Centsational Girl"

Sara at "Running from the Law"
Rachel at "Southern Exposure"
 There are a ton of great DIY videos on Youtube as well.  Basically, it is a pretty easy and inexpensive way to have your own custom furniture.





Thursday, November 17, 2011

0
My Pinterest Obsession

I confess!  I check Pinterest 3-4 times a day.  I love seeing the creativity, to drool over the recipes and the beautiful pictures, and fantasize about my next project.  It is inspiring and motivating- and since I've signed up, I've completed more projects than entire year previous.  Any time I complete a pinned project idea, I try to comment about what I learned.  This way my pin board is also becoming a check list.

Here is what I'm currently working on:


Anthropologie Rosette Bedding- I'm going with the crisp white too
Just waiting on the nailhead trim to finish- it's a dusky purple I love
A faux capiz chandelier for the nursery
And, lastly,
A jersey rug- once I decide what color to go with for the nursery.  Is white asking for trouble?
So, if you are looking for inspiration, I highly suggest visiting Pinterest.  If you need an invite, just let me know!


Thursday, November 3, 2011

1
My Tips for the Newly Pregnant

The first sign I was pregnant was sore breasts.  They grew, I bought new bras, which I promptly outgrew.  For the first trimester, just get some inexpensive sports bras at Walmart.  After that, try to stick to inexpensive solutions until you get to the nursing stage.

For the same reason, avoid pre-buying maternity tops.  I got a lot of cute ones in preparation during the first trimester.  What fit my chest then sadly no longer fit in the later two trimesters.  Just wait until you actually need it and then go get the correct size.

Maternity jeans are awesome and very comfortable, but there is more involved in pulling them up and down, which you do a lot with a baby bouncing on your bladder.  I got a few pairs of comfortable pajama and lounge pants a couple sizes up at the thrift store for wearing around the house.

Don't buy anti-nausea solutions or any other pregnancy symptom helps until that symptom actually appears.  A lot of symptoms you hear about you may never develop.

Pregtastic.org podcasts are a joy to listen to when all you can think about is pregnancy, and no one else is interested in your new obsession.  I listened to all 200+ in the first trimester.  Pregnancy forums are also great, I use BabyCenter.

My favorite maternity tops are the ones with high enough necklines that I don't have to wear a layer underneath.  It makes life much easier.

When you develop road rage, start crying because your husband is neglectful, or get intensely irritated with strangers- remember that you are at a very hormonal time and this, too, shall pass.

I wanted to buy the best and brightest for baby.  I spent hours reading reviews of baby products on Amazon and picked out my top 1 or 2 choices for each item.  We planned what would work for our budget in each category (feeding, sleeping, nursery, diapering, etc.).  Sadly, this did not afford me the convenience of buying everything (or anything, actually) new.  So we hit garage sales every weekend, thrift stores on sale days, and a seasonal consignment sale.  I got every item on my wish list- down to brand and in 'like new' condition- for a tiny fraction of the price.  Being on a budget doesn't mean you have to cut corners or sacrifice quality, safety, or condition.  It just means you need to spend a little more time and constantly be on the prowl for bargains.  It was actually fun, and, a great activity to do with Ben.

Take everything with a grain of salt and do your research.  Not supposed to eat unheated deli meats?  When you research the actual risk level to you and the baby, you may decide that it is crazy low enough that it is OK to go head and eat a cold sandwich now and again. 


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

0
Goals

I just realized I have a little over a month before my siblings arrive for Thanksgiving.  Time to put in place some must-complete goals to ensure a comfortable visit.

1. Finish painting the kitchen table.  I've primed and recovered the seats, and that is where we've been for the last four months. Whoops!

2. Purchase a sectional or couch set for the family room.  Easier said than done when you're picky and on a craigslist budget!

3. Deep clean the house.  Lets face it, hasn't been done... ever.

4. Finish painting trim upstairs.  3 rooms left to go.

5. Paint Baby Girl's room. 


So, with such happy motivation, should be doable.  The only one out of my control is finding the perfect sectional at the right price.


Friday, September 16, 2011

1
Cloth Wipes for Diapering Baby

Since making the decision to cloth diaper, cloth wipes were an easy extension.  I found that most online stores sell double layer wipes for at least $1 each, so I decided to whip up some of my own. 

One year of diapering a child in disposables produces 1 ton of trash that can take over 300 years to break down.  While disposable wipes are certainly handy, fairly inexpensive, and the best option for some families, it sure feels warm and fuzzy inside to be able to use cloth.


I bought 1.5 yards of terry cloth for one side and cut up two pairs of old flannel pajamas for the other.  I used a large baby washcloth as a guide for cutting each rectangle.  Because I don't have a serger, I sewed them right sides together, leaving a small hole to flip them right sides out.  Then I sewed a border around the edges and a line down the center for strength through the multiple washings. 
Here is a close up of the finished product:

It took me about 4 hours altogether to make the 36 wipes.  My total cost was about $8 (5.60 for the terry cloth at fabric.com and 2.40 for a roll of matching thread).  If you have to buy 1.5 yards of flannel you could certainly get more wipes, and would cost a little more.

This was my first sewing project for baby girl, and it felt fun to be making something with love for her.  I can't believe it, but I can hardly wait to change diapers on that sweet little bum!  I also know I did a high quality job on these wipes, and they should last through several children.

For those who are on a budget and don't sew or have the time, I found these cute single layer flannel wipes on Etsy that run for under $.50/wipe and get great reviews : Turtles R Us


Monday, September 12, 2011

0
Thrift Store Shopping Spree

Today I hit 3 thrift stores and a consignment shop- Savers, Idaho Youth Ranch, Other Mothers, and New Again.  I spent $29 for the following:

 
 2 Miracle blankets,  1 swaddler, 1 hooded towel, 2 pair slippers, 1 pair shoes, 15 pair socks, 1 mattress pad, 2 fitted crib sheets, 1 crib skirt, 1 maternity shirt, 3 books, 3 onesies, 1 bunting, 1 NWT designer sweater, and my favorite, a classic red wool coat. 

All for the price of any two of these items retail!  Hooray for thrift stores!


Sunday, September 11, 2011

0
Tips for Baby Bargain Shopping

1. Research!  Know what the best products are, and their retail/ebay/craigslist pricepoints.  That will help you stay away from wastes of money, and to recognize awesome deals.  I spent a lot of time reading reviews of 5 star products on Amazon, and reading through Mom Must-Have's on Amazon's Listmania.  I also read through blogs and Mom forums.  When I found something I knew I wanted, I checked the price on ebay and craigslist, making mental notes.

2. Best places for deals, in order:  Garage sales, thrift stores, resale stores, Amazon Warehouse, craigslist, Ebay.  Yup, Ebay ranked last.  Oftentimes, with shipping and the competition for well-rated items, you're not going to get much off retail.  Amazon Warehouse was a new find for me- basically they are reselling like-new customer returns, sometimes at a deep discount.  I got the Angelcare Movement and Sound Sensor Deluxe (normally $115) for $46, brand new in the box.  I've also seen the My Brest Friend for as low as $21.  Not bad for a new item shipped to your door for free (you HAVE signed up for Amazon Moms already, right?)

3. Be picky.  Every week there will be dozens of new garage sales and new items in at the thrift stores, so don't buy something unless you love it AND it's in great condition AND it's an excellent price.

4. Be a "regular".  I go to the thrift store every Monday and hit garage sales every Saturday.  I've developed my own price points for various items, and each week I find a nearly-new treasure.

5. If you spot an awesome deal on an item you already have, buy it and flip it.  I like Craigslist best because Ebay can be a hassle with the shipping, fees, and disillusioned buyers.  Almost every week I find something I can flip for enough to offset the cost of almost my entire shopping trip. 


Wednesday, September 7, 2011

1
It's a Girl!

My excuse for not blogging is most definitely female!  I was so excited to see her at the ultrasound.  The technician assured us that if she was like all the other babies that day, she would be easy and cooperative.  "Not if she is like her Dad!"  Sure enough, Baby Martineau was very stubborn and required lots of prodding and shifting to get all the necessary photos.  Here are some of the cuter ones:






Our CNM said that she looks perfectly normal and is a good size - 12 oz - for her age.  She seems to be on track for a January birthday.  Also, Ben asked if it would be alright to fly so close to the due date for the Christmas holiday.  She said it was too early to tell if I would have any complications that would outlaw it, but either way she probably wouldn't recommend traveling at 36 weeks.  So it looks like we are driving to Alabama, getting hit with last minute fares, or hanging about Boise.  Anyone have any third trimester travel experiences / advice?


Tuesday, June 7, 2011

4
Caring for your Hardwood Floors

12 Tips for Maintaining Hardwood Floors

Caring for your hardwood floors is the easiest way to make sure that they last for the longest time possible. Making sure your floors are taken care of allows your home to remain appealing and presentable. Here are 12 tips for effectively taking care of your hardwood floors.  A guest post by George.

1. Get Information


Follow the directions and recommendations for the care of your wood flooring. Ask for information on the ease or difficulty of care from the manufacturer or retailer before purchase. Make sure that your ability to care for the flooring matches the type of wood floor you’re considering.

2. Use The Right Cleaner


Remember that when caring for your wood flooring, you are actually caring for two surfaces – the wood and the finish on top of it. Always use the correct kind of products for cleaning your floor. Tile-cleaning products and vinyl-cleaning products should never be used on a wood floor. If you want to use a wax on your wood floor, be sure the product specifically says that it is safe for hardwood. Some wax products can damage wood flooring so badly that the material has to be sanded and refinished. Be sure to clean your floor before waxing. Never use wax on a sealed wood floor, as this can create a surface that is extremely slippery. It can also cause problems if the floor ever needs to be resealed. Avoid oil soaps altogether.

3. Try Throw Rugs


Use throw rugs and mats in high traffic areas, in doorways, and where furniture with hard feet will rest. Placing a large throw rug where children will be playing is also a good idea.

4. Prevent Your Furniture From Causing Damage


Put plastic-faced or fabric-faced gliders under the legs of furniture to prevent wood floors from being scratched, especially when rearranging furniture. These are also a good idea for dining chairs, where a great deal of movement is to be expected. When moving particularly heavy pieces of furniture, get help to lift the piece, instead of scooting or sliding it.

5. Clean Regularly


Vacuum, sweep, or mop your wood floors with a very slightly damp mop regularly. However, never wet-mop it. A large amount of water will dull finishes, damage the wood with warping, or leave discoloring behind. Wipe up drink and food spills right away. Place a throw rug in front of kitchen sink area to keep water from standing on floor.

6. Avoid Hard Bottomed Shoes


Any kind of cleats, high heels, sports shoes, or other hard-bottomed shoes can damage the floor surface. Try to avoid heavy traffic in these types of footwear. Shoes with deep treads can hold dirt and pebbles that could cause gouges in your hardwood flooring. Have an area near your door where you or visitors can leave dirty or hard-soled shoes upon entrance.

7. Use A Specialized Vacuum


Use a vacuum with a brush attachment or special attachments for bare floors. Never use a vacuum cleaner with a beater bar on a wood floor. A dust mop with a wide, cotton head is also useful for everyday care. When using a broom, don’t use one with hard or abrasive bristles. Use a soft, fine-bristled broom with exploded ends to catch dust. Wood flooring should be cleaned twice a week to remove dust and dirt, to prevent it from building up and scratching with regular traffic.

8. Get Help With Scratches Or Dents


If your hardwood floor acquires any scratches or dents, consult the manufacturer or retailer on how to repair them. Some flooring can be easily replaced in small pieces, but there are some forms of damage that can be buffed out with less expense.

9. Clean Your Rugs And Mats


Be sure to clean beneath any rugs and mats – dirt and dust filter down and can scar the wood underneath, acting like sandpaper between the rug and flooring. Rugs and mats should also be washed, cleaned, or shaken outdoors regularly to remove any buildup that could cause damage.

10. Prevent Long Exposure To Sunlight


If the windows in the room with your wood flooring get large amounts of bright light during the day, add sheer drapes or close the blinds or curtains completely to protect the floors. Long periods of bright sunlight will discolor a wood floor with UV damage.

11. Clean Up Right Away


Immediately clean up tracked-in dirt or mud before it has the opportunity to scratch, seep between panels, or otherwise damage the flooring.

12. Control The Humidity


Take care with how humid the environment inside your home is. Keep it between 45% and 55%. Too humid an environment can cause the wood to swell, crack, and warp. If your home is too dry, the wood can separate. Buying a humidifier or dehumidifier is an easy way to monitor this.

George assists his employers with their vacuum cleaner bags as he mainly writes about Numatic vacuum bags for a living.


Tuesday, May 3, 2011

0
National Infertility Week

We just finished up a week designated for raising awareness of infertility problems.  Coincidentally, it was also the week that I had my first appointment with a reproductive endocrinologist.  Ben and I have been married for a year and a half, and have been open to pregnancy for about a year of that time.  During the last year, I've only had 4 periods.  We would get really excited each time I was late, but pregnancy tests were always negative.  Finally I was able to get in and see an expert.  Blood test results combined with my symptoms have led to the diagnosis of Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).  PCOS affects an estimated 10% of women.  It is basically an imbalance of hormones that can contribute to infertility by halting ovulation.

The good news is that since PCOS is so common, there a multiple resources and online support groups and forums.  From what I've been reading, PCOS and it's unpleasant symptoms can be managed with weight loss (though it is difficult to lose weight due to PCOS), low-carbohydrate diets, and moderate exercise.  

From a fertility standpoint, the solution is to regulate the hormones with medication, and, in effect, force the body to ovulate.  The process, called Ovarian Induction, is straightforward.  At the beginning of your cycle (luckily, mine started the day of my appointment so I was able to jump right in with treatment), you take Clomid pills to stimulate follicle growth.  Later, you also take Bravelle injections to continue to develop the dominant follicles.  The goal is to have 1-2 mature follicles.  When that point is reached (determined by somewhat awkward transvaginal ultrasounds), then you take a trigger shot to begin ovulation. 

Success rates for my age range are pretty promising.  The 18% are pregnant after the first cycle, 27% after two, and 50% after three, 75% are pregnant after six cycles.  As each cycle takes two months and costs about $1,000, we are hoping to find ourselves pregnant sooner rather than later.  So far I am 10 pills, 3 injections, 2 ultrasounds, and 17 days into my first cycle.

Side note:  While this is the same treatment that Kate Gosselin undertook (minus the artificial insemination), the risk for multiples is much lower due to stricter recommendations by the American Fertility Association.  This means if more than 1-2 mature follicles develop, the cycle will be discontinued, preventing pregnancy with multiples.

Anyone else struggle with PCOS or infertility?


Saturday, April 9, 2011

3
How to Save Money on Road Trips

Summer is approaching and so are vacations!   This year our family is in Debt Snowball mode, which means all money in excess of essential spending goes to paying off our student loan rather than a vacation.  Still, I have a business trip for my online store and a cross-country trip to return the car my parents have generously loaned us for over a year.

Thus, I have gathered a collection of cost-cutting tips for road trip vacations on a budget.

Fuel
  • Make sure your tires are properly inflated.  
  • Check into buying a gas gift card online- sometimes you can find up to 20% savings.  
  • If you have a warehouse club membership, chart out some locations along your route to gas up at a discount.  These are often an inexpensive place to eat as well.

Food
  • Watch Groupon and other deal sites for the cities you'll be visiting.  Restaurant, entertainment,  and even lodging offers can be purchased as substantial savings.
  • Towards the end of each month, Restaurant.com discounts their certificates.  Stock up on couple for the cities you will be staying at.  On a Sister's Roadtrip, we stopped in San Antonio, TX.  My sister Emily had the foresight to purchase 3 restaurant certificates.  They were $2.00 each and we only needed one- but it was worth the extra expense to have our choice and to find the least expensive.
  • Pack your own snacks.  My family has certain treats we only eat on roadtrips- like corn nuts.  Getting them beforehand at a grocery or warehouse store saves tons over picking up snacks at each vending machine or gas station.  Other favorites: Kettle corn, red vines, teddy grahams, cut veggies and hummus, yogurt, cheese sticks, anything from Nutty Guys (watch for Groupons or sales).
  • Bring along lunches or pick up fixings at local grocery stores.  I used to hate doing this.  For me, vacations should have a little luxury and novelty involved.  To resist the temptation of "I'm on vacation so I deserve to eat at a restaurant", I buy nicer items than I would normally pack for an everyday lunch.  I get nice rolls, deli meats, cheeses and sides, Nutella, bottled soda or juice, etc.  Rotisserie chicken is great as well.  Then, I make these meals an event.  My other temptation for swinging by a fast food place rather than eating a packed lunch was- "I want to get out of this car!!".  Pick a well-tended rest stop or park, get out of the car, walk around, eat your lunch at table or picnic style, play a game.
  • Consider packing a crock pot.  This summer, my family is performing in the Nauvoo Pageant.  To offset the expensive lodging, we are planning to have some crock pot suppers.
 Lodging
  • Groupon, online travel deal sites, Craigslist.com vacation rentals.
  • Look for bundled amenities- a pool, included breakfast or internet.
  • Camp!   This can be a lot of fun, it is built in that you save by eating a fire-cooked meal, there are often lots of free activities, not to mention the possibilities of making family memories.  State Parks will likely have the lowest fees.  This requires some planning ahead- camp grounds do not always do the best road-side advertising.  If you don't have one already, build your camping stash through thrift store shopping and garage sales.  Check out www.freecampgrounds.com
  • Check out the brochures and booklets at rest stops- they oftentimes have great coupons for local lodging.
General
  • Can you get a tax write-off?  Planning your vacation around business purposes (an interview or training) or charity (volunteering at the Nauvoo pageant!?) can make a large chunk of your expenses deductible.
  • Free activities often don't put money into online advertising.  Talk to locals and ask what is fun and free or inexpensive to do in the region.  Ben and I have learned of awesome camp sites, fishing holes, and local, unmarked hot springs that way.
  • Pick up audiobooks and CDs at the library for free in-car entertainment.


Sunday, March 13, 2011

3
Anyone Want to Adopt a Dog?

Today, the alarm went off and I happily popped out of bed and headed to the sink to brush my teeth.  So did Ben, but in a much darker mood.  He keep muttering, "What are we going to do?" and "Oh no!"  I did not know what his problem was until I hit the stairwell- turns out he has a much more sensitive nose- and the smell hit me.   The disgusting, overpowering smell of fresh dog doo. 

Before Percy starts yipping that I am blackening his good name, let me explain.  Yesterday, we agreed to foster another dog when the rescue called us saying they were desperate to find another foster family.  Sprite was being returned for the second time by an adoptive family (they don't get refunds on the vet bills, so that should have been the red flag.)  Apparently, she had lost 7 pounds and refused to eat unless they were forcing her by hand.  We agreed and brought Sprite home- an 8 month old, 36 lb cattle dog mix. 

Percy puffed up his 14 lbs and immediately asserted his dominance as the top dog.  Sprite found that amusing and decided Percy was funny enough to be her favorite toy.  Ben and I thought it was great fun to watch Sprite chase Percy around the yard.  If Percy ever stopped running, Sprite would bat at him with her paw or bark and him.  Haha.
Guilty Party

Anyway, it was a cold night in ID, so we felt bad leaving poor Sprite outside.  Since she is really wiley we didn't want her in the garage.  Ben had 3 motorcycles to sell in there and they decrease in value if they get knocked over.  Plus, I just bought a cute armoir at an auction for $25 that is in there waiting to get painted and I didn't want it to be chewed on.
So, we decided on the downstairs bath.  We put Percy in there (in his kennel) to keep Sprite company and went to bed.

And found a HUGE mess in the morning.  Coming to our house had helped Sprite regain her appetite and she had eaten a LOT of dog food and the prodigious end product was not pretty.  Or Solid. Especially after she stepped in it.  Speaking of- I need to go back and finish scrubbing out the grout with a toothbrush (Percy's- I think he must HATE Sprite.  I can just imagine what he was thinking when he saw Sprite decide to do her business inside right next to his kennel).

So, its been busy.


Friday, February 18, 2011

4
Our New House

Giddy with excitement, the first thing I did after receiving the keys to our new abode was make a video tour.  It is 6 dizzying minutes long and rewatching it gives me a motion-sickness headache, but I am embedding it here anyway.  It is part of our record- the ultra-before shot.  Already things have started changing.  Today we cleaned the kitchen and garage, steam cleaned all the carpets, and painted the pantry and laundry closet Robin's Egg blue.




Monday, February 14, 2011

126
Bidrack Review

After reading my blog post, Bidrack has contacted me about resolving the issues and have offered to mail me my iPad to make up for the bad experience due to their supplier problems and to restore my confidence in their company.  The iPad has arrived, much to my surprise and delight.  This show of good faith has made me very hopeful the Bidrack is working to become the fun site and reliable company we all want it to be.
Friends and I have won items using our free wheel-spin bids.  Some of these items were won 3 weeks ago and none have arrived.  So, while I hope that his time Bidrack will make good on their part of the deal by fulfilling purchases, I cannot verify from experience that they are shipping items. If you have received a won item recently, please comment below.
I still visit the Bidrack page almost daily for my free spin of the wheel.  While other auction sites I have tried, like Quibids, ship within days, you have to pay for every bid. Bidding with actual paid for bids makes the experience very stressful for me, like gambling with not such great odds.  I typically bid on gift cards to locations I would be going anyway, then if I lose I just use the 'buy-it-now' option and have thus only lost the $2.00 shipping fee.
Bidrack, however, gives free bids daily.  They do expire after 24 hours, so they don't stack up, but it makes the whole auction environment a lot more fun when I don't feel like I'm watching myself throw money away.
Also, there are several lower value items that are very easy to win.
All in all, if you have a bidrack account I wouldn't give up on them yet.  If you don't, I'd either go ahead and give it a try (if the $60 is not big money to you) OR wait another couple of months and see what happens.  I think they are moving in a good direction.


Sunday, January 30, 2011

3
Super Cook!

As we prepare to make the big move (we hope to close on the house somewhere between February 22-25), it is time to start eating up food rather than moving it.  Ben gave us a huge head start by dropping the sugar container yesterday, checking several pounds of the sweet stuff off our list. :)

I started out making a list of everything in our cupboards, with possible meal ideas, and stuck it to the fridge.  The plan was to cross off items as we use them. 

Then...

I discovered Super Cook- this awesome web resource where you put in all your food, and they spit out a list of recipes in various categories using only those ingredients. Genius!  As food items are used up, I can delete them from my list.  Right now I have 2000+ recipes available-  and here I thought there was nothing to make!  I wonder how many options I'll have come February 21...


Check out Super Cook


Monday, January 17, 2011

6
Selling on Ebay

A couple months ago, inspired by the blog My Dear Trash, I decided to try Ebay selling.  It has been a great fit- I love the excitement of the hunt at Savers' dollar day.  I already make multiple weekly trips to the post office with Sorella Bella, so combined with my love of shopping- Ebay selling makes sense.

Here is my experience for those of you thinking of selling on Ebay.   In the first 60 days I made, net, about $1000.  The first few weeks you don't make much and posting items seems to take forever.  As time goes on, you learn to be selective about items to post for sale, and you learn tricks to post more quickly.  My goal is to get up to $250/ week.

1. Buy a postal scale.  I got the Escali for $20.00 on Amazon (certain colors are less expensive).   It has paid for itself multiple times.    When an item is paid for, I find it and weigh it.  If it is 13 oz or less, I package it in a poly bag and send it first class.  If it is over, I try my hardest to stuff it into a flat rate envelope ($4.75).  

2. When you want to put a bulky item into a flat rate envelope, it helps to prepare the envelope by using your fist to flatten the bottom. 

3. Always ship through Ebay.  You save a little on postal costs, but the real plum is the free or (for first class) discounted delivery confirmation.  In the 2 months I have been doing this, I have had 2 buyers claim to not receive packages.  One was an expensive BCBG Maxazria suit I had paid more than $1 for... plus the shipping!  Lesson learned- always ship online through Ebay, and you never have that problem.  Delivery confirmation is always applied and Ebay automatically gets the tracking number.

4. The reason I didn't use Ebay shipping at first is because I thought it would be complicated.  It's not!  You just need a scale (for first class or parcels, not flat rate envelopes), and a printer.

5. I purchased 2/sheet labels from an ebay seller- 200 for $10.40.  They are ok, but you still need to trim them and put tape over the edges and address.  In the future, I will just print on paper and use a handy dandy tape gun.

6. Like they say at My Dear Trash, price the item at what you want to get for it (using completed listings for reference). Oftentimes, you only get one bid.  If that doesn't sell (but had several watchers), I'll list it at the same price for a second week.  If it STILL doesn't sell, I'll lower the price a bit.  The fourth week I lower even more- to as low as $2.99.  I charge 6.95 shipping, 14.95 International.

7. Get to know brands.  If it sells at a middle or lower range department store, avoid.  You want brands that have followings.  My top sellers so far have been anything BCBG Maxazria or J.Jill, and NWT Ralph Lauren and Jones New York items.


Saturday, January 15, 2011

6
Keeping Track

I really love couponing because it helps us eat well and build food storage on a budget.  Our food budget is $135/month and includes newspaper subscription (coupons), pet supplies, paper goods, and, of course, food.  If you add in health & beauty products the budget is $155.  This is for our family of 2, but since we are filling a store room on this budget, I don't imagine it will go up significantly with the addition of mini-Martineaus.

The Coupon Project has kindly made available a wonderful Savings Tracker for free!  I do my grocery shopping on Mondays.  When I get home I take the receipts and input all the information.  Simple, and it is pretty neat to watch the savings.  Ben appreciates how it keeps me honest about sticking to the budget!

Download the tracker for yourself here:  http://thecouponproject.com/downloads/savings-tracker

PS- I have a second copy of the file I use to track my mystery shopping.  I change 'Shelf Cost' to 'Spent', "Coupons" to "Reimbursed", and 'Rebate' to 'Payment'.  So far for January, we have gotten $129 worth of free food and entertainment, and we have made $70.  These amounts are a little higher than normal.  So far in January we've been able to sign up for some great shops- a Fun Zone ($75), Cheesecake Factory ($40), Dollar Theater ($12) and several fast food assignments. 


Read other posts on: mystery shopping.


Friday, January 14, 2011

3
Special Project

With a set date on moving our entire almost exactly 7 miles south, we have started looking at our possessions in a different light.  Value, usefulness, or beauty has transformed into bulk, awkward shape, and weight.  Due to this altered way of thinking, Ben has made a request.  "Can you put a hold on Ebay selling until we get in the new house?"  

As I look at the mountains piles of neatly-folded clothing that have overtaken our dining room, I have to admit he has a point.  Keeping track of boxes of clothing and shipping simply won't be an option in the middle of a move.  Thus, with my extra hours of time I am embarking on a new project.

I served as a missionary on Temple Square for 18 months and, in that time, met and learned to love hundreds of fellow missionaries.  It has been nearly four years since that experience, but I still miss those friends and our daily interactions.  The sisters come from all over the world, and part of the experience of Temple Square was enjoying all the represented cultures and languages. 

My idea is to put together a recipe book with submissions, mission stories, and photos from the sisters serving during the years I was.  Copies will be available for download on a website, or to purchase hard copy versions at cost of printing and shipping.  I may also likely add T-shirts and other items for sale at cost.  I feel it would be a fun service, and a good way to remember and connect with friends.  

I think the largest challenge will be collecting the recipes.  Compiling the book will take time, but I'm sure I can figure it out.  Building the website will force me to obtain some skills I, at present, only dream of holding.  I am excited for this new venture and hope I am up to the task! 


Thursday, January 13, 2011

23
Writer's Block?

Coming up for intelligent, content-rich, unique posts is a lot more challenging than I imagined it would be when I made the leap into blogging.  Sometimes it is a real stretch to come up with a post idea.  Fleshing out those forced ideas into a well-written post can be incredibly painful.
Recently, I made a discovery.  When suffering from writer's block I usually switch in to reader mode- flipping through other people's blogs, posting dozens of well-thought-out comments.  This is a great distraction, but typically doesn't help the issue.

So, instead, here is what you do.  Get off the computer.  Go wash your face, or shine your sink.  Paint your nails or take a shower.  The ideas may just start flowing.  Its worked for me!

PS- Be prepared in case it works extra well and you have multiple ideas.  While you run back to the computer and begin a post on the first idea, the others will fly away.


Wednesday, January 12, 2011

0
Great News!

Today we learned that our short sale offer has officially been accepted by the Bank of America.  The proposed close date is February 28, but we are working to move it up if possible.  For those who are looking a purchasing a short sale home, it took almost 4 months for the acceptance and will likely be a little over 5 at the close.  The process definitely stretched our patience, and during the wait we saw interest rates rise .75%, but in the end to get such a fabulous house at an amazing price (the original owners mortgage is at $265k and we are closing at 135k), it was worth the wait.

Now begins the preparation for the big move.  I made up a list of everything we have in the fridge, freezer, and cupboards.  We aren't moving very far away, but better to eat it than move it, right?  We have the home inspection on Friday, I am calling around getting rate quotes on home insurance.  Any advice?


Friday, January 7, 2011

14
Closet "Organization"

We have submitted a counter offer to the bank, and while we anxiously await the favorable conclusion of negotiations, I've prematurely begun packing.  We could be moving as early as February 18th.  As a result, though I love the task, organizing doesn't seem to be the best use of my time.  I did, however, make an hour to rearrange our closet. 
A common theme to organized closets seems to be matching hangers.  We don't have the $$ to upgrade to wood just yet, but why not match what we have?  I switched all my clothes to the clear plastic and all of Ben's to the white plastic.  I wish I would have taken a before picture- here is what is left in one section where I ran out- 


Your usual college-days mix-mash of hangers.

After reorganizing to a uniform set (and sorting by color)-


A quick fix that, relative to how it was before, makes things looked more organized and a little nicer.