Monday, September 13, 2010

Free and cheap stuff

Sometimes it is just a matter of looking around.

We went for a walk and on the way back noticed a garage sale was being set up. We went back the next morning (when the sale was on) and scored 2 external frame packs (a Kelty and an REI) for $5 and $7. I also got an electric tea kettle for 75 cents.

One thing we left behind was our grill. We brought the propane tank, but a grill is hard to move! We thought it would be easy to turn up a replacement for free, but so far it hasn't happened. But, as I was walking home from school today, I spied a nice big red Weber grill with a free sign. It even had a mostly full bag of briquets and a chimney thrown in! Score!!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Bump in the road

This week was not a frugal week.

We got our security deposit back from our last place. They charged us for things like needing to repaint, replacing the carpet in the front room, clean up in the back yard. The carpet had stains when we moved in, they said there were more stains and so we were charged a small percentage of the replacement. Same with the kitchen floor and painting. I am kind of mad about the back yard. We tended it, but it was a really beautiful yard that two full time students with three kids could keep up with. I think if they expected anything beyond basic keeping the yard mowed, they should have done it themselves. It was free of debris, mowed, and swept when we left. Anyway, it ended up costing us $1000 of our deposit. We still got $1000 back. A little more actually.

On Wednesday I had extreme back and neck pain that turned into a migraine. It became apparent that I needed to get a better backpack if I planned to walk to school and not have to visit the chiropractor. We went out on Thursday and got a new bag. Although it was on sale, it still cost $90. The store has bean bags of varying weights so I was able to simulate the amount of books I carry and this one was the one that was very comfortable.

Our computer monitor died. Although I now have a laptop and so we technically don't need a new monitor, we like to watch movies and that is hard to do with 5 people around a laptop. The dude found out that the school has surplus sales. He went and got a 19 inch flat panel for $35. So it wasn't too bad, but it was still money out the door.

Tonight we went to a little festival downtown which was free and fun. However, we had decided to eat there, which turned out to be decidedly unfrugal. $7 for a really good plate of food (pulled pork sandwich, chips, beans). Magnus stayed home tonight, and the 4 of us were able to split two plates. We got 3 Cokes for $2 each. Only drank two. Then we each had an ice cream cone. So we spent $23 on our "free" night out. Ouch!

OK, onto to the celebratory stuff. We discovered that there is a concert series put on by our music department, mostly by faculty members. It is free for students of my school and $5 for students of any other school. So The Dude and I will be able to have date night for $5! There is also a dance series that is free for students. Since I am the only one into dance, I will be attending alone, or with friends from school.

The Dude is pretty upset that I forgot to mention the best deal of the week last time!! Crazy cheap beer!! We have a chain grocery store that marks milk half price when it is close to the expiration date. With three boys, milk doesn't usually stand a chance, so we try to swing past there often and pick up milk deals. Last weekend we went and were also looking at the discount rack. And we spied beer! It was a weirdly packed box of 13 bottles of Miller Genuine Draft Light, 5 bottles of Guinness, 5 bottles of a popular regional lager, and 1 bottle of microbrew ale. All for $9.99!! 

Another happy find: Plums!! In our alley and on the street by our house, in a commercial building yard, are mad plum trees! We will go out gleaning in the next couple of days.

It was kind of cool. I was in a store and feeling sad and poor. There were all the really beautiful clothes that outdoorsy hipsters wear. Lovely things, on sale for $35 or $50 or $100. None of those are sale prices to us! We went over to the Goodwill and I found two really lovely name brand wool sweaters for $3 each. :)

I found post-its!! A friend told me that Staples had them on sale. I had gone to Staples and didn't see them in the ad. I went online and found the sales flyer that listed them. I took it in and it turned out our store had a different sale going on, but they price match. So I was able to get the flags for 25 cents a pack and a  2400 small yellow post-its for a total of $2. At $2 for that many, I am willing to living with yellow!

Rin has discovered an inexpensive (actually free!) way to decorate his room. Since we attend a major university that is in a major conference, sports are pretty big. So at different events, the athletes come out and sign their posters for free. He is collecting them and hanging them on his wall. Luigi is going for a bit of the same theme.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Getting into the groove

This will be a pretty randomized post. I was asked if I would post pictures and I would love to, but I am not sure I will have time to. :(  Maybe over winter break I will give giant picture-heavy posts!

First a few celebratory things. We did a little thrift shopping the past few days. We had been in Goodwill for a long time. I will be printing and needing to save a lot of articles in the coming years. I bought a ream of paper at the beginning of the school year (I think that was 3 weeks ago) and it is already gone. SOmehow I will need to keep that paper organized. I wanted one of these: handy file box
but GW had none. We had three before we moved and I sent 2 packing. Sigh. I found some nice sized binders for 49 cents each and grabbed those. I also found a couple accordion files for the same price. As we were leaving I went over to check out the dresses and found a beautiful sundress that fits me well for $1.99!!
I ran into Staple to see if they were having any kind of deal on copy paper. They were having their back to school sale. On the clearance shelf, I found these bad boys for 50 cents each! I went ahead and got 10, I believe I will fill them pretty well. Today was a trip to Office Depot for a case of copy paper for $19.99 That should last me the year. One thing I am stumbling on is Post-Its. They seem ridiculously expensive. I don't want to spend $10 for 500 tiny sheets of paper. If anyone has found an inexpensive source for these, please let me know. I was willing to pay $4 for 1200 at Office Depot, but they were all that sad yellow color. I am especially trying to find the little flag sized ones, which are so much more expensive!

Last week, we were walking home and decided to try the weekly special: our ice cream shop offers $1 scoops or floats. Very generous portions, every Thursday. We will be doing that again! We also went to an Italian restaurant downtown. I decided to try a new strategy. Before we left home, we went online and read through the menu to decide on our best meal value. That way we weren't faced with a huge list of choices and the pressure of trying to decide, and having to do it when the smells are surrounding us. We got out order all mapped out and headed out. As we were entering the restaurant I noticed a sign on the door. I inquired, and discovered a crazy deal. Full dinner including drink for $5 each. Luigi got a kids meal for $3, and we all had a nice meal for about what we would spend at Burger King. Even at crazy prices, going out to eat has been moved to the special occasion box.

I really wanted to get some new clothes for starting my new position. A lot of my stuff doesn't fit well right now (which will hopefully be changing. I have lost 7 pounds in this past month thanks to walking everywhere!) Fortunately my boys aren't really into brand new clothes as long as they think their clothes are cool. So we just had to fill in a few pieces for them. I am very tall and often have trouble finding pants and shirts that are long enough. I decided to check out the mall. I went to Macy's and fell upon their 70% clearance racks. I found skirts for $3 and $4. I got leggings for $3.75. I splurged and bought the HUE tights, because they are the only tights that I have found that are actually long enough. I went to the counter with my nice stack of clothes, applied for a Macy's card and received an additional 15% off. We paid the card off today, so no finance charge or interest. I got a nice big bag of clothes for about $70.

And finally, a little tech talk before bedtime. First of all, a big shout out to Netflix. For the school year, we have backed down to one disk out with unlimited streaming. This is just the right size for us when we are this busy. The Dude has been watching Dollhouse while folding clothes. The boys enjoy Futurama or Pink Panther when the Dude and I go for a walk and they want to amuse themselves. The Dude and I had been watching Soap, but now we are setting our sights on Upstairs, Downstairs, which is a great complement to my stratification class! OUr family doesn't have a television, so no cable costs. We have a phone/internet package for about $80 a month and that includes free long distance. Last year we downgraded to prepaid Tracfones. I use about $100 a year on my phone, the Dude's is probably closer to $75 a year. Huge difference from the $80 a month we were paying with T Mobile. Since the boys are walking to school, we got them one as well and will buy 60 minutes every 3 months. I think that is the smallest amount we can get. Their phone is simply for them to call and say they need a ride or are staying late. Most of the time (besides school) they can use one of the parent phones.

On to computers and printers. First the printer. I highly recommend a laser printer if you want to save a ton of money and also do a ton of printing. We bought an HP several years ago because we were sick to death of spending so much money on inkjet cartridges. It is black and white only, which is hardly ever an issue. We pay $60 for a new toner, and it lasts for around 2000 pages!  I think we paid $89 for it, which was not much more than the inkjet cartridge would have cost. When it starts to run out, we take it out, give it a shake, reinsert, and we got another hundred or so pages out of it. I am also going to take advantage of my 50 free sheets per week at the grad school.

Finally, happy dance on the computer. In December, my computer got very sick very suddenly. I found a tower on craigslist for $150. Windows 7, 200 GB hard drive, 1024 MB memory something something something. It has been a very fast and reliable machine. I would also like a laptop to take to school. We have a computer lab and it is pretty close to my office, but I don't work well in that type of environment, and I wouldn't want to be grading and recording papers in the lab. We have an old laptop and the dude has been trying to get it running for me. It just isn't happening. It was going to need more memory. It is also a pretty old machine. I decided to poke around on craigslist. I found a 220 GB hard drive, 2 GB mem really sweet little laptop for $175!  The dude went and picked it up tonight. It is blazing fast. :)  So my computing wants have been fulfilled.

I stay true to my word. This is a very disjointed post. But I am tired and have been reading a whole lot of big words all weekend, so I hope you all can forgive me :)