Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Christmas 2014 Budget/Spending Autopsy

Ok, so calling this an Autopsy is not very festive or cheerful.
So call it "The Post Where I Talk About What I Was Going to Spend for Christmas and What I Actually Spent for Christmas".
Whatever works for you.....

I budgeted $1900 for Christmas spending.  Except for what Hubs spends on gifts for me, this is our entire spending budget for Christmas.
Last year I budgeted $1650.00 and we spent $2164.77.

We were going to travel again this year so I upped the budget by $250.00 and hoped we could stay within that parameter.  My budget for Christmas is still less than we spent last year but I wanted to not spend so much this year so I tired to reduce our costs. 

Our Christmas spending has been tracking upward since I began keeping running totals in 2010.
Except for 1 year, we have upped our spending each successive year.

2010.........$1000 planned/$881.64 spent
2011.........$1300 planned/$851.32 spent
2012.........$1000 planned/$1020.48 spent
2013.........$1650 planned/$2164.77 spent(Yikes!)

Time to get this back under budget!

How do I arrive at a budget for Christmas?  Nowadays I look at what we spent the previous years(because I have a full accounting for the last 4 years or so on the blog)and see where we did well and where we did "not-so-well" with budgeting and add in any unusual things we plan to do and after some papers are balled up and thrown away and there is one sheet left with lots of writing on it(as well as writing scratched out on it), we have a plan and a budget. lolz

No, really.....I look at possible spending categories and what I think we will use and compare it to what we have put aside by September of that year.
I generally use c/c points to get gift cards for free(to either give as presents or use to buy the presents to give), cash in our rolled up change(about $150 a year), use blog income and then chunk in a hunk of either the tax refund from that year, a part of Hubs' bonus he receives in March or a piece of the Savings Challenge $ we saved from the previous year.

There are many ways to save ahead for Christmas.....make regular deposits to a dedicated account or a Christmas club at a bank, use a one-time windfall like a bonus or a tax refund, use whatever works for your situation.

The only unacceptable plan is to GO INTO DEBT for Christmas!
Better to not spend on Christmas than to endure the grief/angst/anguish/stress by going into debt buying crap at Christmas you can't afford and having to pay off the bills incurred sometime in 2015, or 2016, or 2017 or beyond.

So we went into the Holidays with $2000 to spend.
Of course, I buy year round so some of that amount was already spent by September.

Here is where the funds were allocated.......

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $40.00
Gifts for immediate family(includes any cash gifts)  $800.00
Gifts for extended family & friends  $100.00
Electricity for lights   $15.00
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie   $100.00
Charity   $100
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)   $800.00
Extra  $45.00 (the "just in case" cushion)

Unlike last year, we didn't do a "Secret Santa" exchange this year so that category of spending was eliminated.

And here is where the money actually went.....

Shipping gifts/mailing Holiday Cards  $66.01 
Gifts for immediate family  $644.04 
Gifts for extended family & friends  $37.10 
Electricity for lights  $15 
A Christmas eve meal and show or movie  $96.60
Charity   $100
Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze)  $823.72  
TOTAL SPENT...$1,782.47

Here are the Spending Details....

$66.01  *Shipping/Mailing Holiday Cards & Gifts----Over $40 budgeted by $26.01
We sent out 30 cards(mailed 26 of the cards/4 put in boxes we shipped so no stamps used) and mailed 5 gifts.  Stamps cost $11.70 and the cards I had already from previous Christmases.  1 package mailed to Daughter and 4 boxes sent to friends/other family cost $54.31 in postage.
I just didn't budget enough for shipping costs this year.  Shipping costs are difficult to get around unless you travel around the country at the Holidays to hand out gifts, which would cost you much more.  ;-)

$644.04  *Gifts for family----Under $800 budgeted by $155.96
Last year I spent $698.82 on gifts for family.  In 2012, this included $300 in cash and $398.82 in gifts.  This year only 1 person received cash so most of the spending was on gifts. 
I upped my budget for gifts this year(since I was so far over budget last Christmas) and came in under.
Happy, happy!

I cashed in points on my credit card for gift cards and gave those or used some gift cards I got from points to buy gifts.  I "saved" $150 by doing this.    I did shop sales, both in store and online.  I got 1 gift for free as a Wellness Reward at Rite-Aid, 2 gift cards were bought using $5 off coupons at Rite-Aid, B&BW's items were bought 50% off during the after Xmas clearance sales.  I utilized sales/codes online for some gifts during the weekend before and weekend of Black Friday sales plus all online shopping was done through a rebate back shopping site/portal, saving me an additional $7.75.(Hey! Every bit helps, right? lol) I bought a couple of Groupons which saved me approx. $25 over retail on those items.
Lots of stocking stuffers were items gotten at Rite-Aid over the course of the year for little  or no money too.

The only cash gift given out this year was to College Boy as he is the only child not on his own yet.  He hasn't found a part time job yet at school so he needs cash.
$37.10  *Gifts for extended family---Under $100 budgeted by $62.90
Locally we give something to the nephew(a gift card and bags of good coffee this year)and a food box to his father/brother in-law.  I get deals on the food, items that he likes to eat, and always put a bag of Dunkin Donuts coffee that I buy at the Holidays on sale in his box. 
Hubs' sister got a small gift box this year and I sent boxes to 3 internet friends this year as well.
(My older kids' Significant Others' gifts are counted under "family".)
By keeping my eye out for deals I was able to keep well under the budget in this category.  This helps since the shipping for many of these presents was significant once you added them all up.
I didn't spend a lot on friends and extended family this year but postage it cost made up for that. lolz

$15  *Electricity for Lights----Even
Same stuff hung outside the house.
We used a smaller tree inside this year so less lights on that but we got them up sooner.  I figure we'll spend $15 on electricity this year.  It's really not a category that I can nail down the cost beyond an approximation.

$96.60  *A Christmas eve meal and show or movie----Under $100 budgeted by $3.40
We had 7 for dinner this year.  Hubs, College Boy, myself and BIL and nephew makes 5.
We let College Boy invite his friends this year and his 2 band mates accepted the invitation.  I guesstimated fairly close to what this ended up costing.  8-)

$100.00  *Charity----Even
I spent exactly what I planned to on this category.  My Holiday "giving" dollars didn't go to an organization I can write off my taxes this year but to an individual so our giving was more personal this year.

$823.72  *Christmas travel expenses(lodging, food, gas, booze, car rental, cash incidentals)----Over $800 budgeted by $23.72
Gas was $77.53(thank you lower oil!), Lodging was $205.18(including 1 breakfast we ate at the motel) and Meals out were $267.47.   #1 Son paid for 1 meal out.  We rented a car for the trip at $146.24.  We spent $100.57 on liquor.
Last year we spent over $200 on booze so I am happy with this result.
Some Incidentals spending of $26.73 brings it to $823.72 all in.

I figured we were staying 1 less day this year and I spent $878.52 last Christmas on this category so $800 seemed reasonable.  But we didn't rent a car last year(and the car rental wasn't planned this year, it just came up the day before we left because Hubs' car's check engine light came on.....ugh.)

All totaled, this year I budgeted $2000 and we spent $1782.47, so well under budget overall.
Much less than the $2164.77 total we spent Christmas of 2013.
Our spending was $382.30 less than last year and we still had a great Holiday and were able to gift and travel.
I think I planned better this Christmas, and how much better that my budget vs. spending aligned this year, shows that.

If you kept track of your spending for Christmas, how did you do?
Did you spend more. less or right about what you planned on spending?
Did you have any money epiphanies when you look back at the Holiday plan?
Do you see anything you'll change about your spending for Christmas 2015?

Leave a comment and let us know how you did and what you learned about yourself & money this year!


Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Christmas Week Wrap-Up....With Pictures!

Our Christmas Week was a little bit excitement and a lot of low key and peaceful.
Hubs took off the whole week(though he was on-call via his phone).
We got to go see our older son and ventured via rental car to Pittsburgh on the Sunday before Christmas.

The rental car was a last minute decision as we had planned to take the Malibu.
But on Saturday morning the dreaded check engine light alit.
Not wanting to take any chances on that journey that it really WAS something that needed attention we dropped off the car to be looked at while we were away and rented a car for 4 days.
Rental company upgraded us from a full-sized to a "whatever the next size is" car and we headed to "Da Burgh" in a Hyundai SUV-y thing.
Stopped in Altoona as we usually do for lunch....

 Oh look!
Imported potatoes with our burgers....
Then we went to Giant Eagle to buy some beer.
GE has a food cafĂ© so they can sell you 192 ounces of beer per transaction in PA rather than an entire CASE of beer from a beer distributor.
Talk about archaic liquor laws......

Once checked into our hotel outside of Pittsburgh and a brief nap, we went out for dinner at Primanti Bros.
College Boy had his first Primanti's sammich that night......

When I was at this location this past summer with #1 Son it was practically deserted.
Not so on Sunday evening.  The Steelers had won that day so there was a rather large crowd, 60% or so sporting Steelers jerseys or Steelers colors and the pitchers of crap beer were flowing freely.

Then we were off to #1 Son and GF's apartment once they returned from work.
We exchanged presents that evening.

I only got this one shot that evening of #1 Son opening his "gag" gift.......

It's a humongous roll of SMARTIES candy!  As a child this was his Candy of Choice, so when I saw this oversized container of Smarties shaped like the small rolls at 5 Below, I had to buy it. lolz
Oh wait!
He got another gag gift.....

This container shaped like a beer can of BEER FLAVORED jelly beans.
The man is serious about his craft beer! lolz
I haven't gotten a report back yet on how bad these tasted......

College Boy elected to stay the 2 nights at his brother's apartment, couch surfing, so the next morning we picked everyone up and headed out for lunch.

They opened up a new Burgatory Restaurant near their apartment so that's where lunch happened.

Some of us had alcoholic milkshakes.....note huge marshmallow on top of milkshake.....

And some of us had regular milkshakes......

I learned my lesson last Christmas at Burgatory, no alcoholic milkshake for me again!
I had the glass of Sangria.
An EIGHT DOLLAR glass of Sangria.
Except it was NOT Sangria.
Yes it was red wine but it was super DRY!
And there were no citrus type fruits in it......but there were tiny cubes of APPLES in it.
Don't get the Sangria at Burgatory.
I'm just sayin'.......

But DO get a burger as that's their specialty.  Some of us got fancy pants complicated "had to custom order it on a sheet of paper" burgers, but not I.
I went with a menu item called Morty's Steakhouse Burger.
It was topped with 4 pounds of onion straws(way too many and I had to scrape at least half off the thing!)and a big knife through the sandwich.
The coleslaw with a vinegar dressed concoction.  It could have used more dressing is all I'm gonna say.

Burgatory gave out fortune cookies at the end of the meal.
College Boy got the best one-which is now my Facebook cover btw....

We attempted a selfie outside afterwards......

The sun was in my eyes(I was holding the camera.....why do they let the person with the shortest arms control the selfie??), I totally didn't get College Boy in the shot and thanks for the horns Hubs!
Everybody is a smartass, ain't they?!

Since nobody gave me a "shelfie stick" for Christmas I just took a group photo of everyone else.....
Much better.

We went back to #1 Son's apartment and visited the afternoon away.

After #1 Son's GF left for work we went across the river to check out #1 Son's favorite beer buying place which was a Giant Eagle market which sold beer in their cafe.  I was looking for a particular stout that's only made around the Holidays, which this particular store had TONS of last year when we were there.  I wanted to pick up a few since at home I'd have to buy a case of them and that case was just shy of $80. ick.  That GE had none of the stout.....but that didn't stop Hubs and #1 Son from buying other beers, did it?

So we tried another GE that carried beer and again they had none, though Hubs and #1 Son picked up a few more beers there.
We stopped off at Trader Joe's once back on the other side of town so I could pick up some Lobster Ravioli.  We don't have a TJ in our area and the Lobster Ravioli is real good and such a bargain at $3.99 a package!  I stocked up on a supply to hold us until we got back to Pittsburgh again.

Then we tried a drive-thru beer distributor on the way back to his Swiss Vale neighborhood for my stout and they had gotten 1 case of it in and had sold it weeks ago. 
Then we tried the beer distributor back near #1 Son's apartment and they didn't have any but he called around to his "sources" and found that a GE over in Robinson, PA(thru downtown and through a tunnel and over a bridge NW of "Da Burgh")had some in stock.
So do you think we drove 45 minutes away through the downtown RUSH HOUR to get to that GE?
Of course we did! lolz

We found the store and they had 4 bottles left which I bought.  I was able to find another stout there I hadn't seen anywhere else and wanted to try(at #1 Son's suggestion)so I got that as well.
Afterwards we had to find our way back to Pittsburgh in the dark and we hit the rush hour traffic heading out of downtown east....but then again the tunnel near Squirrel Hill backs up ALL times of day.

Since it was getting late we went to dinner at Rivertowne.

Oh gee, imagine that?  Rivertowne has a brewery attached to it!
This was totally #1 Son's idea and one of his hang-out places.
So he got to pay the bill.  ;-)
The crab cakes were good and the shrimp were monstrously LARGE and it's a good thing I didn't drink there because I would have never made it across the street to the parking lot in one piece due to the traffic on that dangerous road....geez!
Everyone just watched me hobble across the road while I played a real life version of FROGGER.
Thanks guys!!!

We visited a while longer at the apartment before heading back to the hotel for the night.

Next morning we all met at Bob Evans in Monroeville for breakfast before we headed home and #1 Son and the GF headed to the Erie area to spend Christmas with her family.

We waited about 25 minutes in the lobby for a table at Bob's while they seated many tables of people who had come in after us.
So Hubs went to ask WTF was going on!?
Hostess said they only had TWO tables to accommodate a party of 5(What?  You never heard of putting 2 smaller tables together!?!?)  Every time they seated a table they kept saying they would seat us soon, but when pushed by Hubs the Hostess revealed that 2 parties had been seated right before us at those 2 tables and had yet to ORDER so neither of them would be ready to vacate for a good half hour or more.
He gave them an earful at that point as they should have let us know that from the first!

Needless to say we left and took our business to Denny's right down the road where we got a table right off!
Bob Evans Assholes......

We had a lovely breakfast from that point on and a great waitress.
Ate our fill and then some quick photos in the parking lot.

#1 Son and Girlfriend.....

Most of my family........

 Hey! Let me in the photos too......

My boys.........

Then we headed for home via Altoona.
We stopped for lunch at a Chinese buffet since we wanted something quick.
Down the shopping center from the restaurant was a craft store so we ducked in to walk a bit.

Gosh darn it!
I missed Bob Ross........


I swear this guy's voice is better as a sleep aid than any pharmaceuticals ever invented!

Happy little trees............

I also found Sonya Ann's stocking here..............

Hubs had to stop at a Rite-Aid along the way home so I could finish doing an +Ups Deal.
No worries we passed a few along the way when we weren't on the interstate.

The next day was Christmas Eve so we did a few last minute things like grocery shopping.
I picked up our Rib Roast for Christmas dinner as well as a few other things.
We made a trip to Sam's Club for some produce and croissants and then had a look around at other things.

I found this nice Thomas the Tank Engine book but alas!,
I found it 20 years too late for my Thomas fan.....he's 23 and a half

That evening we went up to our local Chinese restaurant for our traditional Christmas eve Chinese dinner.
The brother in-law and nephew joined us again this year and College Boy's Docile Sponge bandmates also came along.

Everyone was up at the crack of noon for Christmas.
Well "I" was up at the crack of 9am to work on dinner.

We opened presents once College Boy came downstairs.....

 A Rite-Aid gift card?!?
Gee, how did you

 Clothes for College Boy

 Nuts for my honey....

More clothes for College Boy.....

 Drawers for Christmas....a family tradition......

Snacks and a year's supply of Chap Stick.....well more like 6 months of Chap Stick if you are a flutist.

And More clothes for College Boy.

I think everyone was happy with their loot.

BIL and nephew came over around 1 for dinner and we all ate until we were ready to bust.
Later we had coffee/tea and ate pie/cookies/Christmas crack/name your poison.

I realized that I forgot to make the Calamari I bought for Christmas the next morning, so Friday's dinner was.......get ready for it......Calamari!  ;-)

Saturday Hubs and I went to one of our favorite places for a couple of beers.....

Well I had one beer, Grumpy Bill's Porter.....

And hubs had a flight and a beer.

 Old signs on the wall.....

Lunch was a thin crusted pepperoni pizza....mmmmm.....

We took a scenic drive afterwards and then spent the rest of Saturday relaxing.
Just a real low key Christmas week here in Podunk, PA.

How was your week?


Monday, December 29, 2014

Rolling/Spending the +Up Rewards This Week.....Part 2

Back to Rite-Aid after having blood drawn to return the Dove 'Poo and then I bought this on BIL's card.......

2 x Dove 'Poo on sale=$7.00
2 x Gear Deodorant on sale=$6.00
2 x GE light bulbs on sale=$7.98
1 x Bayer aspirin 20% wellness disc.=$2.79**
2 x Haribo gummies on sale=$2.00
1 x case Simplify water 20% wellness disc.=$2.79 *not pictured*

Coupons Used
2 x $2/1 Gear Deo IPQ(coupons dotcom)=$4.00
2 x $1/1 GE light bulbs(NLA)=$2.00
1 x $1/1 Bayer product ManuQ=$1.00
1 x $2/1 select Bayer item In-AdQ=$2.00
1 x .30/1 Haribo gummies(NLA)=.30
1 x $1/2 Haribo gummies VideoValuesQ=$1.00
Coupon Total......$10.30


I used $16 in +Up Rewards and put $2.26 on the R-A giftcard that had $8.04 from the Dove 'Poo return.

I received back $11 in new +Up Rewards($2 wyb2 Dove, $2 wyb2 Gear, 2 x $3 GE bulbs, $1 Simplify water).

Spent $16 +Ups.
Gained $9 +Ups.($2 Dove ones counted in the last trip.)
Paid $0 OOP.
Brought home items valued at $33.03(again, not counting the Dove 'Poo).

I'll go back on Friday to roll another $4 expiring on the 2nd.

** There is a $2 off In-Ad Q for selected Bayer products this week.
The 36 ct. Bayer 81mg aspirin is $3.49 a package.
If you have the 20% Wellness discount it's $2.79, if you have the 10% Wellness discount it's $3.14.

Pair the $2 In-Ad Q with a ManuQ(12/14 RP insert)/IPQ(coupons dotcom)for $1/1 and pay -.21 with 20% Wellness or .14¢ with 10% Wellness level.  Of course if you have the 20% Wellness discount you'll need to buy something else to cover the negative .21¢.  ;-)


This Week on the Dining Table

The "Eating Out A Lot" Edition..........

We went to Pittsburgh for a few days early last week before Christmas to see our eldest son.  College Boy came with us and got to hang with his brother AND eat his first Primanti's sandwich.  I had to take half of my sandwich back to the hotel! lolz

Onward to the meal planning.....................

What was planned last week--

1.  Dinner Out
2.  Dinner Out
3.  Dinner Out
4.  Chinese Out(Xmas Eve tradition)
5.  Rib Roast with Roasted Veggies, Homemade Rolls, Pumpkin Ravioli w/Sage Butter Sauce
6.  No Clue
7.  Mushroom Risotto, Tossed Salad Greens
And this is what actually happened--

1.  Primanti Bros.
2.  Rivertowne Restaurant
3.  Leftovers OR Fend For Yourself
4.  Chinese Out(Xmas Eve tradition)
5.  Rib Roast with Roasted Veggies, Homemade Rolls, Pumpkin Ravioli w/Sage Butter Sauce
6.  Calamari and Leftovers
7.  Spaghetti with Chorizo and Meatballs

We ate out a good bit as we were out of town in Pittsburgh.  Then more Eating Out Christmas Eve.  I cooked Christmas Dinner(I think I cooked 3/4 of the day!). I picked up a chunk of Chorizo sausage and Chicken Thighs for cheap on Xmas eve so we had spaghetti(using the sausage) on Saturday night and the Chicken Thighs will be cooked early this week.
I forgot to make the Calamari for Christmas(!!!)so we had it the night after Xmas.
Last week I made 3 trips to 3 different  markets and spent $153.26 on $289.94 worth of groceries.  1 trip to Weis for a Xmas roast and a few things, then a trip to Sam's Club for some stock-up things and then we went to Trader Joe's while in Pittsburgh, mostly to pick up a supply of lobster ravioli(mmmmm)as we can't get that around here.

Here is the plan for this week.........

1.  Leftover Roast & Roasted Veggies
2.  Eggplant Parmesan, Salad
3.  Chicken thighs, Veggies and Risotto
4.  Assorted Leftovers
5.  Brats on Rolls, Cabbage, Fried Apples
6.  More Leftovers
7. ?  Don't know yet.....more Leftovers if not already eaten by then

Lots of leftovers to work on but a little bit of new cooking.  The chicken thighs and the eggplant I picked up last week will get prepared.  We already have the brats, cabbage and apples.  I also have half an acorn squash to fit in somewhere and a head of cauliflower to use up.....and fresh mushrooms too.
What I need to buy for this menu.........nothing.   The plan is not to shop this week, other than milk.

I am up to $440.87 spending for December with 3 days left in the month.
But I do have that Rite-Aid overage in Nov./Dec. and a SavingStar account deposit for 2014 hitting my bank this week.  These will help offset/be applied to my Dec. food/toiletries spending.

What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?    

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten that week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week, other than clearance deals on Xmas themed plastic and paper goods?


Sunday, December 28, 2014

Rolling/Spending the +Up Rewards This Week....Part 1

Lots of +Ups to spend/roll at Rite-Aid this week.
Let me apologize in advance for all the Rite-Aid posts I need to subject everyone to in the coming days.

Here is what I did today, Sunday--

First on my Wellness card........

4 x Gear Deodorant on sale $3=$12.00
2 x Nexxus 'Poo 20% wellness disc=$10.06
2 x Simplify bottled water on sale but 20% disc. less=$5.48 *Not pictured*
2 x GE light bulbs on sale=$7.98
2 x Dove 20% wellness discount?=$7.58(1 rang up $3.99, 1 rang up $3.59 **I bought the wrong kind**

Coupons Used
4 x $2/1 Gear Deodorant IPQ=$8.00
2 x $3/1 Nexxus item VideoValuesQ(Dec.)=$6.00
1 x $2/1 GE light bulb VideoValuesQ(Dec.)=$2.00
1 x $1/1 GE light bulb ManuQ=$1.00
1 x $2.50/1 GE light bulb IPQ(NLA)=$2.50
2 x $1/1 Dove hair item VideoValuesQ(Dec.)=$2.00
Coupon Total......$21.50


I used $21 in +Up Rewards and paid .35¢ on a free R-A gift card I used up, and .35¢ OOP.
I received back $12 in new +Up Rewards(2 x $2 wyb2 Gear, 2 x $1 Simplify water, 2 x $3 GE bulbs).

I screwed up the Dove Deal (Buy 2/Get $2 +Ups)and didn't get that $2 +Ups I was expecting but I didn't notice it until I got home.  Evidently the Dove 'Poo with the bonus mini bottle on it didn't count toward the Deal so I'll have to go back and return/rebuy the correct types.
So instead of earning $14 in +Ups I got $12.

Ya see?
Even folks who have their proverbial Rite-Aid shit together screw things up sometimes.
Can I blame the cashier?  He likes to chat and distract me.
Yeah, that's it! lolz

Then I bought this stuff on my son's card.......

2 x GE light bulbs on sale=$7.98
1 x Simplify water case=$2.79

I used--
1 x $1/1 GE light bulbs IPQ=$1.00
1 x $2.50/1 GE light bulbs IPQ(NLA)=$2.50
1 x $2/1 GE light bulbs VideoValuesQ(Dec.)=$2.00
Coupon Total.....$5.50


I used a $5 +Up Reward and paid .27¢ OOP.

I received back $7 in new +Up Rewards(2 x $3 GE, $1 Simplify water).

Once I got return the Dove 'Poo(giving me $7.58), rebuy the correct varieties(spending $7 of that $7.58), I'll get a $2 +Ups and have .58¢ gain Cash having converted that amount from the +Ups that I spent the first time buying the 'Poo.  I'll apply that .58¢ to my OOP for the month at Rite-Aid.

I have $10.06 tracking toward a $10 Nexxus +Ups(just have to spend $9.94 more, which means free hair product).  Unfortunately I don't have any more Nexxus coupons to make buying that $9.94 a partial moneymaker too.

I also have $18.03 earned on my card toward this "Buy & Earn" thing Rite-Aid just started and $7.98 on son's card.

So once I rebuy the Dove I'll have used $26 +Ups and earned $21 +Ups on these 2 transactions.
I'll have paid .62¢ OOP(or rather .04¢ OOP after applying the .58¢ gain on the return) and have $84.95 in products.

I have $1 in +Ups to use Monday and $15 to use on Tuesday so I'll stop back in after getting blood work done on Monday and roll/spend those $16 +Ups.
Then I am good until Thursday when another $4 in +Ups is expiring.

My brain is aching from thinking up what to buy/how to use these +Ups up! ;-)



Saturday, December 27, 2014

Curse! Foiled Again & Freebies Time

Well my plan this week at Rite-Aid was thwarted.
Since I wasn't home for half the week....the beginning of the week, I couldn't execute the plan I had.

There were some items on the clearance shelves at the back of my store that I planned on buying this sale week, but evidently someone else who shops at my store had the same idea. lolz

This week's ad had a Dove Deal......Buy 2 items(including 2 bar packs of soap), Get $2 +Ups back.

There were 2 packs of Dove soap(cucumber scent)in the clearance area for $2.24.  Even with no coupons to use, 2 packs would have been $4.48 plus $2 in +Ups back so only $1.24 per 2 bars.

Also in this week's ad was a No Nonsense Deal......Buy 2(including socks), Get $3 +Ups back.

There were packs of men's socks marked down to $3 and change in the clearance area.  2 packs would have been $6 and change plus $3 in +Ups back so $3 & change for 2 multipacks of socks.
These would have gone into my Christmas presents box for giving out next year.

But alas, someone bought it all while I was in Pittsburgh.
I'm glad someone got the great deals even though I have tons of +Ups to roll/spend before this coming week is over.

So since all my potential deals were gone I cashed in some rain checks from the Black Friday sales instead since I was in the store anyway.......

2 x Bumblebee Tuna=$0
1 x GE Light Bulb=$0
2 x RA Toothbrushes=$0
1 x RA Cough Drops=$0

Value of items.....$14.66

Now I have $51 in +Up Rewards expiring on various dates between tomorrow(Sunday)and next Saturday.  There are few items I want to pick up for cheap or free during next week's sale but I have more +Ups I have to use than I have ideas for.
I'll be searching out more plans for spending them as the week goes on and if all else fails, I'll use them to buy toilet paper....something everyone hates to spend money on but truly needs.


Friday, December 26, 2014

Some Frugal Grocery Finds

In the midst of all the Holiday Hullabaloo I made time to do some food shopping.
I stopped at the Surplus Outlet on the way to get College Boy a couple of weeks back and found these awesome deals......

Here is a salad dressing I never saw on a grocery store shelf around.  No added processed sugar, just sweetness from the fruit in this dressing.

I don't know if this is a regionally released item or is a discontinued item.
All I do know is that these bottles were 5 for $1......20¢ a bottle!
Sure the Sell By date was soon but these will last at least a year beyond that.

I like olive oil and vinaigrette type dressings over "heavy" mayo based dressings so this buy was a no brainer for me.

Having just used up the last of the Bell's seasoning at Thanksgiving I was delighted to find these boxes for .39¢!
Regular price on this item at our local grocery stores?
$2.50 or more.
Bell's in the stuffing is a tradition in my family.

One of the employees was stocking a new shipment of spices when I was in the aisle.
I found these "offbeat" spice types--2 types of curry and crystallized ginger.
The best thing was that they were .79¢ a bottle.

Then the employee dug out these jars of Saffron Threads...... .79¢ each!!!
Do you KNOW how expensive saffron is?!?!

Next time I am ready to make some Indian/Spanish/Moroccan fare, I am all set! 8-)

Then Hubs talked me into going to Sam's Club on Christmas Eve Day.  We didn't get much, just some needed Peroxide, Alcohol(rubbing, not drinking!lol), apples and mixed veggies(both for Christmas dinner), 3 dozen eggs, a bag of salad, a TUB of cashews(my Xmas gift to myself), a case of water, eggplant(for Parm later this week)and a box of croissants(for easy breakfasts for College Boy).
After applying a free $20 Gift Card I got for signing up at Sam's Club we paid $39.67 out the door.



Thursday, December 25, 2014

Rite-Aid Buy While Traveling

On the way home from a quick trip to Pittsburgh to see our eldest son for Christmas Hubs let me stop at a Rite-Aid......

2 x Raisins on sale=$5.00
2 x Sugar on sale BOGO50%=$6.43

I used a .75¢/2 Domino's IPQ bringing the total to $10.68
I used $10 in +Up Rewards and paid .68¢ OOP.
I received back $6 in new +Ups($1 wyb2 raisins, $5 wyb $15 baking items).

Then I bought the same stuff again at another store in another town......

Everything the same except the sugar came to $6.73, making my OOP .98¢ for that transaction.
Same $6 in new +Up Rewards received.

Now I am off to plan out how to spend all these +Ups I have that are expiring between this Sunday and Jan. 6th.



Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas or Winter Holiday

Here's hoping your Holiday is everything you wish it to be.

Photo taken at our traditional Chinese dinner on Christmas eve.

Thanks for coming here time and time again to check in with my little life.
I wish for you all a world of peace and acceptance and unity.



Tuesday, December 23, 2014

December Financials...The $24K Savings Challenge

We are just waiting on the electric bill to come in but other than that all our expenses are accounted for in December and paid up.

I have a pretty accurate guestimate on the income left to come in for the month so I sat down to do a rough end of month calculation.
We should end the month with a spare $2,000(or a bit more)to put into my Savings Challenge.

I am torn whether to apply all this spare $ to savings however.

Let me explain......

Our high deductible insurance resets on Jan. 1st.
This means we pay all insurance related expenses out of pocket until we hit that $4K mark for 2015 and then our insurance benefits and co-pays kick in.

I take some very expensive medications.
The "U&C"(aka usual and comparable market cost)for one is almost $500 a month another is almost $400 a month(without any insurance drug benefit, which doesn't kick in onto after we hit our $4K deductible).
I have to refill these each month.

We will carry over a bit more than $1K in our Health Savings Account into 2015 after all the December co-pays/co-insurance charges are paid.

By mid-February of 2015, with these drugs(plus others and a dr. appointment and labs in February)our HSA will be depleted from paying our OOP costs.  (This isn't counting any charges our Daughter-who is still on our plan-has incurred in the first 2 months of 2015.)  Each payday means we add under $200 to this HSA so we will need to come up with $ for OOPs fairly soon into 2015.

I think I am going to take most of the excess cash saved in December from our income and hold it for paying medical OOPs instead of funneling it into my 2014 Savings Challenge.

It's really not a big issue, whether I put this excess income into a savings fund or keep it in the checking account to pay medical costs.

Either way the costs need to be paid, whether from our excess Dec. income or, if we wait a few months to pay those medical bills, with new 2015 income.
One way we pay them immediately, the other we wait until the funds in the HSA build back up.

I feel better if we pay them on time however and using the excess Dec. income is probably what I'll do.
So my 2014 Savings Challenge total won't be much more than what it was in November.

If it stays at it's November tally of $26,353.19 that's still a goodly amount for us to have put into savings during the year.  8-)


Monday, December 22, 2014

This Week on the Dining Table

The "Eating While Traveling" Edition......

Onward to the meal planning!

What was planned last week--

1.  Pork Chops, Braised Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes(for Hubs and son)
2.  Tacos
3.  Meatball Subs, Veggie TBD
4.  Leftovers or Hamburgers
5.  Chinese Chicken(using my .84¢ chicken) w/Ginger Stir-Fry
6.  Leftovers
7.  Leftovers or Fend for Yourself Night
And this is what actually happened--

1.  Pork Chops, Braised Cabbage, Mashed Potatoes(for Hubs and son)
2.  Tacos
3.  Leftovers
4.  Leftovers or Hamburgers
5.  Meatball Subs, leftover cabbage and collards
6.  Leftovers
7.  Leftovers or Fend for Yourself Night

The chicken didn't happen(too many leftovers to use up)so it got shoved into the freezer for later.
Last week I made 4 trips to 2 different markets and spent $55.39 on $135.24 worth of groceries.  I cherry picked the good deals at Weis last week--cereal, peanut butter, boxed stock and canned tomatoes mostly.

Here is the plan for this week.........

1.  Dinner Out
2.  Dinner Out
3.  Dinner Out
4.  Chinese Out(Xmas Eve tradition)
5.  Rib Roast with Roasted Veggies, Homemade Rolls, Pumpkin Ravioli w/Sage Butter Sauce
6.  No Clue
7.  Mushroom Risotto, Tossed Salad Greens
What I need to buy for this menu.........the roast and some veggies for Christmas dinner and mushrooms for the risotto.

I am up to $287.61 in food spending for December with 9 more days left in the month.
What is getting fixed and served at your house this week?

Was last week's plan successful, did you go off plan or did you not even plan what was going to be eaten that week?

Any great deals on food at your stores this week?


Sunday, December 21, 2014

Rite-Aid Again.....What Else?

I made one more trip to Rite-Aid on Saturday.
I had gotten another $3/1 Excedrin Catalina which made it free after +Up Rewards so how could I not get more? lolz

I also decided to do the $5 on $15 Baking Items +Ups Deal on another card.

2 x Playtex tampons on sale=$7.00
2 x BC cookie mix on sale=$4.00
1 x Excedrin on sale=$3.99

Coupons Used
2 x $1/1 Playtex tampons IPQ=$2.00
1 x .75¢/2 BC cookie mix IPQ=.75¢
1 x $1/2 BC baking items VideoValuesQ=$1.00
1 x $3/1 Excedrin CatalinaQ=$3.00
Coupon Total......$6.75


I used $8 in +Up Rewards and paid .24¢ OOP.

I received back $5 in new +Up Rewards($1 Excedrin, $4 wyb2 Playtex) so this stuff  "cost" me $3.

And the Catalina machine spit out yet another $3/1 Excedrin Q!
I give up.....lolz

I now have tracking of $4 on 2 Wellness cards toward the $5 Baking +Ups.

This week I'll buy 2 containers of Domino sugar(on sale BOGO50%=$6.43 my store)and 2 canisters of Sun-Maid raisins(on sale $5 for 2) on each card.
These purchases will give me $15.43 spent on each and trigger the $5 +Ups for each.  The raisins also double dip as they have their own +Ups Deal staring Sunday--buy 2, get a $1 +Ups back.

I have a .75¢/2 IPQ(redplum dotcom)for the sugar so I'll spend $10.68 after Q and get $6 in new +Ups back on each card and $6 in +Ups will print out.

The cookie mix spending from this week was $2.25 on one card and $1.50 on the other card after Qs(one card got an extra .75¢ discount from my SavingStar account).

All together I'll get 4 bags of cookie mix, 4 4lbs. of sugar and 4 canisters of raisins($30.86-$5.75 in Qs=$25.11-$12 in +Ups earned=$13.11 "cost"(paid for mostly with +Up Rewards).  As I'd have to pay that much just for the sacks of sugar at the grocery store, this is a good deal if you need sugar, raisins and cookie mix.

Other than these items I don't foresee any other Rite-Aid shopping until after Christmas.
But then again, something that's an irresistible deal might turn up.... ;-)


Saturday, December 20, 2014

What's Been Going on Around Here Lately

Well there was some of this......

Then some of this......

(Note the recipient of the gift above)

Then there was this, packages sent to friends/family far and wide......this is about half of what I mailed.  You do NOT want to see my postage bill......lolz

And then we attempted to go to the special Ollie's(invitation only) sale last Sunday night.

We arrived at Ollie's at 1 minute to 6pm and there was a line that wrapped around the building.

Not wanting to fight that sort of a crowd and not really going there for anything specific, we just turned the car around and left.

I have been to these yearly sales at Ollie's in years past but NEVER saw a crowd like the one on Sunday night!
Is it because the economy is improving and people have more to spend for the Holidays?
Or is it because the economy is still struggling and people need to find real deals and make their meager gift dollars stretch further?

We ended up checking out a new place called GABE'S that opened up here in the old Price Chopper grocery store building.

They seem to have a lot of merchandise that is returns from other businesses at very low prices.  But you really have to hunt through everything to find the gems.
I saw these shoes I REALLY wanted but they didn't have them in my size......

Hubs found some dress shoes for work though at a good price, which he needed.

They had some wooden signs to hang in/on your house too.

"I'm a Proud Coal Miner".
Now THERE'S a niche demographic! lolz

We got the tree up.
I'm not talking about this tree......

But this tree.......

This is our old tree.  We didn't set up the huge tree, wanting to simplify all the work this year.
It's pre-lit and we put on garland and the star.
College Boy put on 5 or so ornaments this week so we are just calling it done now.  ;-)

This week, in between dr. appointments and grocery/Rite-Aid shopping I've been gathering toiletries to take to our oldest son.
And I've been cooking since Wednesday.

First I had to soak our salt-cured ham.......a Virginia delicacy........

This is a 3 day process.  Today I'll finish it up in the oven.

There was peanut butter cookie baking for College Boy, then the "Christmas Crack" needed making.....

You know you can quit eating this anytime.......NOT! hahahaha

Then it was onward and upward to pie making......

It's not Christmas here without pecan pie.

But before that, there was nut soaking in whiskey.
This is but the first step in making a surprise for someone.........

Friday morning College Boy helped me hauled all that laundry detergent and shampoo up to the Food Bank and then I went to Rite-Aid to give my friends there some "Crack" and cookies.

But I forgot to take the food so I did a transaction instead.
I needed some Hershey kisses for my baking and Hey!  Rite-Aid sent me a coupon Friday morning for cheap Xmas candy(and I did the Playtex tampon +Ups Deals).

I won't bother detailing this one.
Let's just say I used a lot of coupons and spent down my +Up Rewards by $10(after $4 in new +Ups earned for the tampons)and put the .54¢ OOP on my free R-A gift card.

I went home after that and worked on the surprise food item and then took the plate of baked goodies up to R-A afterwards.

Friday evening was simmering the ham and later this morning I'll be baking it off.

What have you been doing to prepare for the Holidays?