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Rear Facing Car Seats

After I posted my exciting car seat discount news, the reaction from my friends was huge.

“Why did you spend so much on car seats?”

“Why didn’t you just get one of those baby seats and call it good?”

“Little Man is STILL rear facing? That’s cruel!”

“When are you going to flip Little Man forward facing? Babies want to see what’s coming!”

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The reason we spent more than $400 on two car seats is¬†twofold: first, we’re tall people with a small car. Second, and this is the more important one, is that rear facing is five times safer than forward facing, period, end of story. Even we grownups would be safer rear facing, but unfortunately cars don’t really work like that. As such, the parenting issue Hubby and I are most annoying about firm on is keeping our children RF as long as possible.

However, extended RF carseats are big. Our car (a Honda Fit) is small. See the problem? When we bought the car, LM was 4 months old, not even close to sleeping through the night, and the idea of having ANOTHER child was unthinkable. We were sleep deprived. Decisions were made, and we went for a smaller, cheaper, more fuel efficient car over a bigger, more family friendly car.

This has worked out well with just one RF kid, since our convertible car seat (a Safety 1st Onside Air convertible) fits nicely in the back middle seat. The back wedges between the two front seats, and two grownups can sit comfortably in the front without kneecap damage. Getting a second one of a similar size back there (which clearly requires one car seat to go behind each front seat) is a nightmare. It can’t be done while maintaining the safety of the seat.

The new car seats we bought are Maxi-Cosi Pria 70 seats. They sit at a much more upright angle than our old seat, which means more space for the people in front. We did have to use our credit card to buy the seats, but we discussed this purchase at length and decided that not being out of debt by the time Hubby gets out of the Corps was worth the added safety that keeping both our babies RF provides.

Sure, Little Man’s feet are touching the seat, but he has yet to seem uncomfy. He usually ends up sitting criss-cross applesauce, or dangling his legs over the side of the carseat, or (this is a new one) pushing the headrest up with them. Even if his legs are folded, look at how toddlers prefer to sit normally- their legs are generally tucked up under them, or crossed in front of them.

And to all those pain in the butt parents I have telling me that I’m overprotective, I have just one thing to say- at least I know my baby is safe.

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It’s Frugal Friday Again!

It’s Friday again, which means we check up on our frugal happenings this week!

  • We have family over, and the pantry challenge kind of took a dive. I ran out of food a lot faster than I anticipated I would, due partially to the family, partially to my brother-in-law coming over way more often during the week (this is the human garbage disposal), and partially to the growth spurts both Baby and LM are going through. As a result, we’re all eating a lot more than I had anticipated.
  • I did make a Target trip for toilet paper (another item I woefully overestimated my stockpile of), kitty litter, and a few other items, and saved $90 with stacked coupons, paying $45.xx out of pocket. I also made a trip to the MCX and got 4 toothbrushes for Operation Christmas Child (all four were free with a kick ass coupon) and a tube of lip gloss for 99 cents.
  • We have been tearing through coffee, which I purchased on clearance with a coupon. However, we’re still saving a ton of money by making it at home instead of stopping to buy it. I’ve gotten in the habit of filling my to-go cup before we leave the house, and it stays warm all day (it’s a Contigo mug I got for free off the curb).
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  • We are planning on going to the Great Cloth Diaper Change this Saturday, and there’s a cloth diaper/kids clothing garage sale going on at the same time. I have a big bin of things to take and sell, so hopefully that’ll pad our checking account nicely.
  • We are also planning on going to the San Diego Zoo on Sunday. Military members get in free, so Hubby and his brother will be free, as will LM (since he’s under 3).

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In The Spirit Of Full Disclosure…

Since I promised to share everything about our finances as we go through this debt journey, I feel that I need to share:

We unfroze our Discover cards today.

We’re driving twenty miles south to Buy Buy Baby.

We’re buying one of the $240+ car seats we need for when Baby comes.

We’ve chosen to defrost the Discover card for this because we earn 1% cash back on the purchase, and I can’t find any other freaking discounts on this particular brand of carseat.

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There is a redeeming part of this story, however! I intend to pay off the extra $260 some charge as soon as it shows up on the Discover statement. The money is sitting pretty in my bank account, ready to go, and I just need to hit “Pay” when the charge shows up.

Update: Before heading out, I sat down with my handy dandy¬†coupon generator laptop to check for cheaper options, since BuyBuy Baby will price match. Lo and behold, one website had the Pria70 with TinyFit (which is the version we needed for Baby) for $219.xx instead of $289.99! The fabric is a slightly different color than it’s advertised, so it can’t be sold at full price. I’m perfectly fine with my total black car seat not being totally black, so I snatched that up!

Then, we went to BuyBuy Baby and found Little Man’s version was on sale for $212.xx instead of $249.99! I almost screeched in the middle of the store, I was so excited. I did jump up and down a little bit. However, when we went to check out, it rang up as $249.99. I asked the sales associate to send someone to check the price, and it turns out the sale was over. Since the sign was still out, though, they gave me that price!

BOOM! Just like that, we paid $442.xx for two carseats instead of $580.xx. That’s $138.xx savings right there, just from pre-shopping and asking for a price check. I’m pretty pleased with myself, if I do say so myself.

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Giving Toddlers What They Crave

Toddlers are a conundrum. They’re not quite big/coordinated enough to undertake a ton of chores, but they want to help you with your chores. This leads to a lot of headaches unless you can come to terms with letting them help. My favorite ways of letting Little Man have some independence and feel like he’s contributing are:

  • Let him help me unload the dishwasher. I always pull the silverware caddy out first so he can’t grab any sharp knives, and I check the top rack if Hubby ran the last load, because he has a tendency to put knives up there. This works great for us because almost all of our dishes are mismatched pieces of hand-me-down Corningwear, which is virtually unbreakable, or mismatched pieces of plastic.
  • When I bake, I pull a chair up to the counter and give him a little cup of lentils, a spoon, and a bowl to transfer the lentils to. This usually results in me vacuuming up lentils, but at least it doesn’t result in eggshells and too much flour in whatever I’m baking.
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  • When I fold laundry, I give LM all the cloth diaper parts and ask him to put them in his diaper bin. That way they’re corraled when I get a chance to stuff them, and he feels like he’s helping me with laundry. We have been working on folding small towels, but LM tends to put one thing in the basket just to take another three (already folded) things out. I also give him single socks to put in our bastard sock bin, which I match during naptime.
  • I’ve given LM a paper towel with a little bit of vinegar on it and had him wipe the glass door. It doesn’t get super clean (in fact, sometimes it gets worse), but when toddlers help with chores, it’s mostly to promote doing them in the first place.
  • We used to have a little cordless vacuum that I could adjust the handle all the way down on. LM would follow me around and vacuum as well. It wasn’t super thourough, but it did cut down the time I spent vacuuming. Sadly, LM’s vacuum met a violent death at the hands of Hubby, who didn’t realize it wasn’t capable of sucking up sawdust and screws in the garage. We’re still searching for a replacement.
  • Putting away toys and books is the best chore for little kids, since they made the mess in the first place. The key here is to keep your expectations low. They will find a toy they haven’t seen in a while, and they will stop cleaning to play. I consider it a success if 5 or 6 toys get put away.
  • LM frequently waters the plants on the front porch. I always have to go back and re-water, and a towel waiting on the sidelines is a must, as are clean clothes. This is best done in warm weather.
  • Putting clothes in the dryer is easy for little kids to do. I usually hand LM the clothing that has to go in one piece at a time, rather than letting him remove them from the washer himself, especially if it’s a load of diapers. Otherwise, things that aren’t supposed to go in the dryer end up in there.
  • One of the earliest chores LM learned was to wipe things, so I like to give him a dry rag to wipe up wet spills, or a wet rag to wipe down dirty surfaces. Babyproofing is key here- LM goes crazy and wipes EVERYTHING he can reach, so make sure those outlets are covered, things that can’t get wet are put up, and that you have a snack ready to distract.

When LM gets a little older, we’ll add in more chores, including hanging clothes on the little clothesline we have (right now clothespins are way too fun to be tools), wiping his high chair after a meal, and mopping with vinegar. Keep your expectations low, and remember that it’s more important for your toddler to learn to contribute at this stage than it is for them to learn to fold/clean/mop correctly.

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Standing On The Edge, Looking Down

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We’re facing monumental changes, and it seems like time is hurtling forward at way too fast of a pace. Here in the next few months, we’ll be welcoming a new little human, choosing a new college for Hubby, picking somewhere to live for the first time ever, moving with a 2 year old and a 4 month old, possibly buying a house, and searching for two jobs.

How do people do this? How do you choose one place to live when the military stops telling you? How do you find a job when you haven’t worked since high school? How do you justify sending your kids to daycare when you’ve always been a stay-at-home mom? It’s all very nerve wracking.

It feels a lot like someone is prodding us towards the edge of a bottomless pit, saying “It’s okay, there’s some nice squishy lava at the bottom to break your fall. You’ll be fine.”

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The Pantry Challenge

For the month of April, I have set a food budget of $50 per week. “That’s insane!” you’re probably saying. “Doesn’t this lady have four people in her household?”. Yes, I do. No, I haven’t gone off the deep end. We’re going to be undertaking a pantry challenge.

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What does this entail?

I’ll be cooking dinners based entirely on the contents of my pantry, freezer, and refrigerator. I won’t be buying extra ingredients. I won’t go to the grocery store more than once a week. I WILL buy milk and eggs, along with bananas and apples and foods covered by my remaining WIC checks this month. I’ve set a budget of $50 each week, so if I spend less than that one week I’m letting myself use it for other staples I’ve run out of (I’m mostly doing this because my in-laws are coming, and I’m not sure if I have enough in the pantry to feed 6 people).

I’m hoping that this challenge will help me see what we have in the pantry in a different light. It will also let us start from scratch with our freezer, so we can stock up on frozen leftovers for when Baby is born. I learned the value of pre-frozen meals when Little Man was born and I want to have a whole freezer full this time around.

Week 1 is off to a less-than-stellar start. I did go through my pantry and reorganized it so I can see what all I have. This helped a lot, since I now know what lives in my pantry.

We ate dinner at Del Taco one night this week, which I feel wasn’t as much of a failure as it seems. We were running errands, my stash of snacks for LM and myself was depleated, and I had to eat something or pass out.

Some of our meals this week were lentils with saffron rice and cantaloupe, leftovers, meatballs, and elbows (noodles with tomato juice). Tonight I’ll be cooking for Hubby, the guy he’s on duty with, myself, Little Man, and whatever hungry Marines happen to wander through the duty hut. I’m not sure what we’ll be having, but I think it’ll probably involve beef and possibly quinoa.

I haven’t noticed a huge dent in the pantry yet, but I’m hopeful that I will before long. I want pantry space, gosh darn it!

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Frugal Friday- Toothbrushes and Bar Soap

Here we are again, at the doctor’s office, about to take our frugal pulse. Except it’s my couch. And I’m not paying anyone.

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This week, we did the following to save some moolah:

  • I used an at-home dry cleaning product to clean Hubby’s uniform. For God knows what reason, all Marines have to wear one of their dress uniforms on Fridays, which is uncomfortable and was racking up quite a dry cleaning bill, even if we only took them in every other week. Plus, we had to get new chevrons sewn on to Hubby’s uniform because of his promotion, so we would have ended up paying EXTRA to get them cleaned and pressed because the addition of chevrons made it a “rush job”. I don’t see how a week is “rush”, but whatever. The $5 Woolite stuff worked very nicely, and we have enough for the next two months of “dry cleaning”. Finish up with an iron and the uniform is good as new!
  • My friend and I went to Target and used their $20 off $100 of baby stuff. We’re both due around the same time, and we both have almost everything we’ll need for baby, but not everything, so we decided to use the coupon together so we didn’t waste that great deal. I ended up with a pack of disposable diapers for Little Man (we use disposables on overnight trips, which we’ll be taking soon to get Hubby’s parents), wipes, a step stool, two pairs of binkies, and a pack of the Gerber prefold cloth diapers. I know they’re dreadful excuses for diapers on their own, but when used as doublers, they actually add a nice little bit of absorbency without breaking the bank.
  • I also picked up noodles at 67 cents/box, toothbrushes that gave me back .43 cents each, and bar soaps for $1/2 bars. The toothbrushes and soap will go in shoe boxes for next year’s Operation Christmas Child. Shopping all year long for this saves me SO much money, and allows me to fill a lot more shoe boxes than I could otherwise.
  • I booked a hotel for when we go pick up Hubby’s parents. They hate driving in Southern California, and my mother-in-law doesn’t understand that this is the one place on Earth where it is infinitely safer to drive 70 mph than it is to drive 50 mph. We therefore drive up to pick them up where the “city” starts, mostly so they arrive in once piece and there are no panic attacks. I booked through Swagbucks, which should push my balance up enough to redeem my SBs for a $25 PayPal card! We’re also sharing a room with my brother-in-law, so he’ll pay for gas.
  • We visited JoAnne’s fabric to get some things for Hubby to make survival bracelets in his spare time, and I found St. Patrick’s day clearance items for 50 cents each. I snagged a bunch of toys and crafts for the shoe box project.
  • We ate one of the freezer meals I had made a while ago. IMG_1739It was a casserole, so when I was cooking it I made a double batch, took half to the potluck I was making it for, and froze the rest in two portions. Then when I don’t feel like cooking, I can open the bag, dump it in a 9×9 pan, top it with cheese, and bake, and POOF! dinner without resorting to takeout. I’ve recently become a big fan of this kind of cooking. Note: It’s best to freeze your bags flat, thus making them stackable. I have a piece of cardboard on the little shelf in my freezer just for this. I didn’t when I froze this particular casserole, and you can see the lines the shelf made.
  • I made coffee at home every day this week instead of picking it up en route. Considering the coffee came from a big tin I got at the commissary for $4.99, and the creamer was .98 for a bottle, I’m coming out WAY ahead on this one.
  • I also bought Hubby two bottles of creamer at.98 cents each, and three bags of coffee that ended up being $2 each. I’ve written about why here.
  • Little Man has been playing happily with his toy ride-on motorcycle all week. It’s just a plastic motorcycle that’s big enough to be ridden on. No engine, no noise, nothing fancy. We picked it up from the curb, cleaned it, and BAM! new favorite.
  • As usual, we’re cloth diapering, and washing our diapers in Tide purchased with stacked coupons (and usually on clearance).

Did you do anything frugal this week?

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April Finances and Goals

We’ve got some big financial changes coming our way in April! First, my flight loan payments have been suspended until we pay off all of our debt with more than a 4% interest rate. Second, Hubby got promoted! This comes with a small pay increase, which we’ll see the second pay period in April. Third, we updated Hubby’s W-2 so that less money is taken out for taxes (having thousands of dollars come back to us each year is great and all, but that’s an interest free loan we’re giving the government. Not cool, yo. We’re hoping that our adjustments will help keep more moolah in our pockets). And finally, our bills have changed thanks to some adjustments I made.

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April’s pay periods are from March 31st- April 13th, then from April 14th- April 29th. It’s the third month of our snowball reduction plan! So far we’ve paid off $7,632.09!

Our total income for this month (not including extra money from my various side ventures) is expected to be around $2,373 (this is a very rough estimate, since I’m not sure how much of a raise Hubby is getting).

We have these bills:

  • Insurance: $170
  • Internet: $50
  • Cell Phones: $42
  • Disneyland Tickets: $99
  • Netflix: $8
  • Savings: $110
  • Haircuts: $40
  • Total: $519.00

And these budgets:

  • Gas: $250
  • Food: $200
  • Miscellaneous: $200
  • Hubby’s Birthday Present: $200 (He’s been asking me for more stuff than a three year old in a toy store, so I’m just giving him cash this year. He can spend it however he wants, and hopefully he’ll stop bugging me for things we can’t afford)
  • Total: $850.00

We owe:

  • Credit Card #1: $1,138.74
  • Credit Card #2: $2,465.75
  • Car Loan: $9,668.39
  • Truck Loan: $0.00!! Woohoo!
  • Line of Credit: $478.18
  • Student Loan: $8,900.00
  • Total: $22,651.06 ($4,082.67 of this is high interest)

This month, our snowball payment plan looks like this. We’ve raised our usual $900/month payment to $1,000/month in accordance with Hubby’s raise! The number in bold is the one we’re making extra payments towards. Everything else is getting the minimum payment.

  • Credit Card #1: $25.00
  • Credit Card #2: $603.34
  • Car Loan: $321.66
  • Line of Credit: $50.00
  • Student Loan: $0.00 (remember, my aunt told us to stop paying this in order to put that money towards our interest bearing debts. Thanks, Auntie!)
  • Total: $1,000.00

Goals

  • Pay off $1,100 worth of debt. This will require me making an extra $100 this month and putting it towards paying off debt. Last month my math got a little messed up, so hopefully April will be a better month! I safeguarded by doing my math with an actual calculator and some coffee this time, instead of relying on mental math and decaf tea.
  • Re-evaluate our debt payment plan with Hubby’s new pay information. We won’t have access to this until sometime in April, so we’re kind of flying blind this month as we adjust to a new salary. This goal may get pushed back to May just so we can wait for MyPay to update.
  • Re-evaluate our month-to-month budget based on Hubby’s new pay information. I also cut some expenses last month to save even more money, so we’ll see how things work out! We might be able to put more towards paying off debt. This also might get pushed back to May.
  • Sell our boat. We bought our boat with every intention of using it to go fishing, but as it turns out, it’s a pain in the butt to go boating here in Southern California between the traffic, fees, and inspections. This gets filed under “stupid money decisions we made when we were young”, and also under “Ways Wyoming is better than SoCal”. I want the space in my garage, and the money in our pockets (or in one of my snowball columns!).
  • Complete a pantry challenge. For the month of April, we’re going to be eating exclusively out of our pantry, fridge, and freezer. I will go to the grocery store for a few perishable things, like milk and eggs, and to spend our WIC checks, but our grocery budget is $50 each week for the three (sometimes four) of us, which will allow us to still indulge a little in our Thursday dinners out and my group of toddler mothers babbling like maniacs about grownup topics coffee date with friends. This will include a week-long visit from my in-laws. I’m hoping to have a clear pantry and freezer by the end of this. I’ll then start filling our freezer with meals for after Baby is born in early July!
  • Post 5 items on Bookoo every day. Like I said, we’re moving in November and I’m hoping to clear out our crap long before we actually have to move. Posting 5 items each day should help a lot.