Friday, March 18, 2011

Stay away! Or how 'bout not ringing the doorbell.

Since moving into our house it seems like we get someone knocking on our door almost once a day about something or other. Yesterday it happened twice. I'm a pretty private person so I'm not a huge fan of someone showing up at my door every day, but I can get over that. The bigger problem is that they always ring the door bell at least once, and there is usually one, if not two kids sleeping, which are then no longer sleeping. A few weeks ago one of the blogs I follow, Pretty Handy Girl, did a post about this very problem and made a "No Solicitors" sign which fixed the daily doorbellers. So, I decided that a sign was also (hopefully) the solution to my problem. So, I took the wording from hers and another sign I saw, combined them into something I liked, and used my graphic design skills (that are pretty much lying dormant at this point) to make it all pretty because a plain one is just not gonna do.

Then I headed over to Michaels last night because this week their frames are the same price as the Goodwill and bought a frame (and a few more for another project), and then headed home. Then I realized there was no way to hang the frame on the door. Bummer.

So, while the dear husband was xboxing, I cut a few strips of burlap (oh, my beloved burlap *swoon*) and made a rope out of it, whipped out my trusty drill to drill a few holes through the back of my frame, attached my rope with some wire, and it was all done. I love it. It's very me. Anyways, here is the finished product.

For any of you who want to use my sign, I'm giving you that very option. It's currently an 8x10, so just keep that in mind when buying your frame. I did give a little extra room on the sides so that it could be cropped into a different size for any of the rebels out there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

My trade secrets

As pretty much all of you already know, my job is to stay home and take care of the house, and Thing 1 and Thing 2. As part of that responsibility, I'm the one that takes care of all the finances and most of the shopping. So, I've decided to share all my tricks of my trade, and hopefully, I'll remember to keep posting when I find good deals on stuff. Here we go-

Shopping Online

Google shopping (New new)

I do the majority of our shopping online. The last several years I think I've done all my Christmas shopping from the couch, with the exception of things I've made for people. When I absolutely HAVE to buy something brand new, the first thing I do is run to Google Shopping. Just go to google and click on the little shopping link at the top and then type in whatever you're looking for, and it'll show you all the different places that have it, how much it is, and how much it will be in total after shipping and tax, if there is shipping and tax in the first place. They recently added a feature where you can see if it's in stock at any regular stores near you, but it's rarely cheaper getting stuff that way. (New New, New Used, and Used) typically has the best price on New New stuff. Also, on a lot of items, if you're spending more than $25 you get free shipping. This is one of the first places I go if I need to buy something more expensive, or giant that would be a ridiculous amount to ship somewhere else. There's also the amazon market place where you can get stuff from private people. I've used this to buy books and DVD's for Josh and Noah for Christmas and birthday. You can get SO much more for your money this way. Just make sure you also check ebay for the same item before you do this. You never know where it'll be cheaper. (New new)

For some reason, has much better deals than Walmart in-store. I don't know why, but it's nice to know. Their shipping is free site-to-store, and is usually really inexpensive to have it shipped, to you, if they don't have free shipping already. You just have to resist the I-Need-It-Now urge and wait for it to get to either your local store, or your doorstep. (FYI, they usually get me my things before their estimated delivery date.) I occasionally check the Daily Deals on and, but usually I don't find anything I need.

Ebay (New New, second hand new, and used)

I've gotten a lot of stuff on ebay over the years. Now you can even buy stuff new, and occasionally get free shipping on things. If you make a point to purchase out of state, you don't have to pay tax either. As an added bonus, instead of going directly to ebay to find something, search for it on Bing first, and if it comes up with a link to ebay, you get 8% cash back on your purchase if you use Buy It Now and pay for it with PayPal. Don't get too hung up on the whole cash back thing though, because a lot of time, if you can have a little bit of patience, you'll get a much better deal through an auction instead of using Buy It Now, even with the cash back. Just remember that you need to factor in shipping costs before you bid. For example, I think it was a the mobile I wanted for William's room - it was an auction with a Buy It Now price. The Buy It Now price was $15 but I just waited a few days and bid on it, and I ended up getting it for $6 including shipping.

How To Bid

There are two general ways people do it. One is to bid the maximum amount you're willing to pay right at the beginning, and the other is to wait until the last few seconds and snipe it. I've done both, but I remember as a teenager I'd do bidding technique number 2 and get all caught up in fighting with someone else on the last minute bidding on a particular auction and completely forget that if I could have a little patience there were several more of what I wanted that would likely be much less expensive. Now I tend to use bidding technique number 1 and just bid as much as I'm willing to pay, and if I don't get it, I just find another one and bid as much as I'm willing to pay all over again. Eventually I'll get something for a good price. Doing it this way keeps away the temptation of the whole bidding wars thing.
Tip: It helps when bidding to use a funky number, like they do in The Price Is Right. I usually bid $x.47 or something like that. Someone has to bid more than you to get it, so if they just bid $x or $x.05, then I still get it. (New new)

This and Amazon are my favorite places to get big items. Overstock ships everything for $2.95, no matter how big. For example, our giant bean bag that many of you have seen (and those of you who haven't, it's a 6' diameter bean bag filled with memory foam. It's a favorite of everyone who sits upon it.) I got that on Overstock, on sale, with a coupon code on top of the sale, and then the $2.95 shipping. That's the way to do it! :)

I'm pretty sure everyone knows what craigslist is. Just remember to always check it for deals before buying new or online, and if you end up buying something, take safety precautions.

Coupon Codes

Any time you see a little box during checkout online for a coupon or promo code, always, always always do a quick Google search to find out if there's a promo code that will save you some moo-la. A lot of times you can get free shipping, and sometimes you can get a certain percentage off. If you can use your percentage off on top of a sale, that's the bomb-diggity. Today I found out about to find coupon codes, but I haven't really checked it out myself yet. It sounded pretty awesome though. :)

Coupons in General

I just recently started using coupons for grocery shopping. I've wanted to do it for a long time, but I didn't think the store I did our shopping at accepted them. Turns out they accept original coupons, but not printed coupons. Big bummer, but at least they do accept some. Anyways, for couponing, is my favorite that I've found so far. They provide their services nationally, so that's very helpful. You're able to pick the store that you shop at, and then they pair up sales with coupons that are in your Sunday paper, tell you which date they were available and which coupon circular they came in so that you can get the best deals possible.

Brad's Deals

Brad's Deals started when Brad, a poor college student, went to prove to his friends that he could get better deals on things online with coupon codes than they could shopping at regular retail stores. It's now turned into a daily e-mail and website. I've found so many good deals through these e-mails. For example, we bought a queen sized aero bed, with free shipping, for $40. BRAND NEW! I also recently bought some jewelry that I found on one of the e-mails...the original price was $100, it was on clearance, Brads Deals gave a coupon code, and there was free shipping. Grand total: $17. They find deals on magazines, jewelry, shoes, clothing, electronics, household items, you name it, they've probably got a deal for you. I use this a lot for Christmas presents, which means I start a spread sheet in Jan. and then as I see things go on sale/clearance and find a coupon code, I buy it, add what I bought, who it's for, and how much I paid to the spreadsheet so that I can keep track of what I have and not over buy.

This I just discovered yesterday, and I'm pretty excited about it. Each day, at 12pm EST they come out with 8 really good deals, one per category, like- Children, Home, Men, Women, Accessories, Handbags, Fragrance, and Beauty. I'm not sure if the categories are the same every day or not, since I've only checked for two days now. A few of them were the same though, if not all of them. Shipping is $2 per item. They seem to sell out pretty quickly though, so you have to check as close to noon EST as you can.

This website/daily e-mail makes me happy. I've gotten so much free stuff. Yes, even a few Christmas presents. It makes me so happy to go fill in the boxes on my Christmas present spread sheet and be able to put $0.00 under the cost for the present. Contrary to the title, it's not all sample sized. I've gotten a few full sized bottles of lotion, shampoo, year long magazine subscriptions, cans of juice, energy drinks, cheeze-its, coupon booklets, and the list goes on. Sometimes you do have to pay for shipping though, so you have to be careful. For example today, there was a free personalized 8x10 wrap around canvas that is usually $50, but you had to pay $11 for shipping. While it is an amazing deal, I don't particularly NEED an 8x10 wrap-around canvas print, as much as I would like one, so I had to fight the voice in my head that was saying "but it's such a good deal!" and save myself the $11, because if you're not careful, eventually your good deals will make you go broke. is a website that allows you to buy vouchers for certain restaurants for much less than the voucher is actually worth. For example, you can get a $10 voucher for $5, and so on. I know a lot of our friends use this website. What our friends probably don't know, is that most of the time, you can get around 80% off the price with a coupon code. (Brads Deals usually has the code.) The moral of the story is, as good of a deal as it is to only pay $10 for a $25 voucher, it's an even better deal to pay $3 for a $25 voucher. Don't ever ever ever buy from before checking to see if there's a promo code available. Personally, I don't buy unless there's an 80% off code and then I stock up until the next 80% off code, but that's just me, because I'm the Queen of Cheap.

Not Online

Except for groceries, most of the rest of my shopping is done at thrift stores. Most of our furniture is from a thrift store. An added bonus for me is that I love painting the furniture if it looks like crap to begin with, so I don't mind if it's not in great condition. Goodwill also gets a lot of items from Target that are new, so keep an eye out for those, but know how much it costs new before you buy. For example, I needed a new stability ball for my work-outs, and there were new ones at Goodwill for $15. That seemed a little high to me, so I left it there and went home to check how much it was new. Turns out that by buying a stability ball new at Target I could get one that was better reviewed and also came with 2 DVD's and a resistance band, for only a few dollars more.

Consignment Stores

Here in Fresno I've gone to The Baby Bump, and also Pip Squeaks. Both of those have ok prices but you can get really good deals if you find stuff on clearance. I try to stock up on winter clothes for the kids in the spring while clothes are on clearance so that I don't have to pay as much later on when everyone else wants winter clothes. Also, check for 3-day consignment sales. There's one called Just Between Friends that goes to a particular area twice a year, and then another one here in Fresno called Uptown Kids that is also twice a year. I'm not sure if Uptown is anywhere else, or just in Fresno. The sales here in Fresno are usually held in the ghetto-est of all ghetto malls (Manchester Center), but if you can get past the tents filled with knock-off shoes and handbags in the main aisles of the mall, you can find some great deals on kids clothes, maternity clothes, strollers, changing tables, etc.

This is already the longest post ever, so I think I'll stop now. I'm always looking for new ways to save moo-la, so leave me a comment if you have any tips. I'll try to keep my very few readers updated when I find new websites and stuff.

And now all of you know how cheap I really am.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

I think I may be the muffin man...okay, maybe not.

I recently found a recipe that's been hanging around in my recipe box for awhile, and today I got to try it out because I had a little free time, and some bananas that weren't going to be eaten. So, I got to try my hand at Mocha Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins. When I told Josh that I was going to make them his response was, "Yeah, that sounds like you." I was a little apprehensive about the whole coffee/banana combo, but I'll try just about anything, especially if coffee is involved. Chocolate doesn't hurt either....come to think of it, bananas don't either. So anyways, here's the recipe, courtesy of

Mocha Chocolate Chip Banana Muffins


  • 1 cup margarine
  • 1 1/4 cups white sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3 ripe bananas
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee granules, dissolved in
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
  2. Blend butter or margarine, sugar, egg, banana, dissolved coffee, and vanilla in food processor for 2 minutes. Add flour, salt, baking powder, and soda, and blend just until flour disappears. Add chocolate chips and mix in with wooden spoon. Spoon mixture into 15 to 18 paper-lined muffin cups.
  3. Bake for 25 minutes. Cool on wire racks.

I didn't have enough margarine, so I used half butter and half margarine, didn't have enough white sugar, so I used mostly brown sugar (which I prefer to bake with anyways), and I used a *heaping* tablespoon of coffee (and plan on adding more next time, but I'm somewhat of a coffee fiend and like my coffee excessively strong.) Oh, and I didn't measure the chocolate chips, 'cause I never measure the chocolate chips- I just dump them in until it looks right. I don't have a food processor either, so I just used a mixer. )I promise, I really did follow this recipe closer than I usually do.) And the you go. It's yummy in my tummy. (And Noah's tummy.)