CategoryFrugality

Thrift shopping adventures

We’ve had a lot of fun thrift shopping lately. It’s so nice to find what you’re looking for!

Since we have roughly three months left until Little Miss arrives, we’ve been working on rearranging things to make room for little girl things. We’ve had quite a few lengthy discussions about what would be the best way to organize. The other day, we finally decided to look for a large cabinet with shelves. Stephen figured it would be a great place to put all our linens, especially since they’re stored in random places right now (like in the boys’ dresser).

Yesterday I stopped at a thrift store run by a battered women’s ministry. Their prices on clothing are so good (children’s clothes for $1 to $2 each!), I figured furniture would be reasonably priced. It was.

There was a huge cabinet for $30, but all the furniture was on sale. I was able to buy it for only $20! What a shock – and a fraction of what we thought we’d have to spend. It works perfectly where we placed it in our room and actually frees up space from the steamer trunks that were there before. I’ll try to post pictures later once everything is situated on/in it.

Then today, we stopped by my other favorite thrift store on our way to Walmart. Can you believe the kids and I were out the door this morning before 9:30? I’m still amazed! Stephen needed a couple things for his beekeeping toolbox, which were easily found. I even found a double boiler for only $2.40. It’s small, but should make the work of melting down all our beeswax much easier.

The rest of our finds this morning were clothes for Little Miss. That was my original intent for stopping there, and we found some nice things. Samuel absolutely loves shopping for his little sister – he would find an outfit and ask if we could buy it. A lot of what he picked out was actually what we were looking for, so he was very pleased that we were able to buy it.

It seems like we tend to go thrift shopping in spurts, because it’s been a while since we’ve gone. But the fact that we were able to get so much of what we were looking for was really nice today!

Really cheap diapers

Today I stopped at the thrift store to look for a few things. I was hoping to find some tops for myself, but didn’t find much. I did find a white Motherhood nursing tank that will be wonderful for layering. That was nice.

Since I was back by the housewares section, I glanced through their sheets. When I sew diapers, I use fleece for the outside and flannel for the inside. Lately, I’ve been looking for fleece blankets and flannel sheets to use. Did I ever find a winner today!

My intent was just to find something that was flannel. Pink would’ve been nice, but wasn’t my ultimate goal. I was surprised to find a full-sized flat sheet and two pillowcases for $4.50. It was even pastel pink. There was a pink fleece blanket there too so that went into a cart too. When I got up to the register, the sheets were half off, making the entire set $2.25. I was hoping to make at least two dozen Rita’s Rump Pocket diapers, and it looks like there will be more than enough fabric in the flat sheet alone to do it.

That is mind-boggling. Two dozen cloth diapers for under $10 plus the time making them. Can’t beat that!

Coupons – personal best

Since today was the last day of Harris Teeter’s triple coupons, I decided to stop in and see if anything was in stock. The other day there was hardly anything on my coupon list that was in stock, but today there was a good bit of the things I had been wanting to get.

I just blinked at the total when the cashier stopped entering coupons. Total due: $1.45. Wow. I’d expected it to be pretty low because I didn’t buy a whole lot, but this was far better than I expected.

For that $1.45, I bought:
3 boxes Huggies baby wipes (used a rain check from the last time they were on sale)
2 bags Grande tortilla chips
5 packets Ortega fajita seasoning
1 Suave deodorant

Those three tubs of baby wipes were worth the trip alone. And to be honest, they were my main reason for stopping in the store.

But getting so many items for so little – that was a real blessing.

Finances

We bought a new van last night! It’s not brand new – it’s a 2000 Chevy Venture in excellent shape. I absolutely love it. But what I love even more about it is that we paid for it outright. I really wanted to pay cash for it, but Stephen got off work late last night and couldn’t make it to the bank before it closed. Either way, the van is completely paid for. But I really need to give God the credit for it – because He is the One who worked it all out.

First of all, I am NOT bragging. At all. I wanted to share that to show where we were, and what God has shown us while He has helped us get to where we are now.

This post is going to be a long one because there’s a lot of history to explain. It’s about finances. The way we view money has really changed over the years. God has used a lot of things and circumstances to change our views too. I want to share our story, because I’ve learned SO much along the way.

Shortly after we were married, we found a “work from home” plan and bought into it. We thought that in a few months’ time, I could stay home and I would be able to supplement Stephen’s income from home. Unfortunately, it was more of a scam than it was for real. Sure, they pushed you to sell product, but they pushed you to build your downline more. The more people you could sucker into working for you, the more you would make. We are NOT good at that type of thing, and while we liked the product well enough, it just didn’t work out for us. Unfortunately, the end result was debt that we thought would be paid off quickly. It wasn’t.

Fast forward a few years – Stephen was laid off from a job he loved, and we moved across the country and back. I found a copy of Dave Ramsey’s book The Total Money Makeover at a garage sale, read it, discussed it with Stephen, and we decided to do what we could to get serious about our finances. Our hard times weren’t over, but we were at least learning about how to handle our finances better than we had been.

What God was teaching us was about faith, trusting Him, and using credit cards. While some people can use them wisely, I believe there are many more out there who can’t. And when Christians have them – it is entirely too easy to use plastic instead of trusting God. We cut up our credit cards completely almost two years ago. It was really hard at first, but then we started noticing something. God did indeed provide. Right when we needed it. Always. It wasn’t always how I imagined He would, but our needs were met and He showed Himself mighty time after time after time.

How can I say I’m trusting God to meet my needs if I pray He’ll provide and then charge it to a credit card? How is that God’s provision?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not faulting someone who has a credit card, uses it, and pays the balance responsibly. But the temptation can be so great. “We’re a little tight this month – I’ll just charge it and pay it next month.” But then next month comes, and it’s tight then too, and the card balance never goes down. I know. I’ve been there.

By the way – tithing IS part of that faith. I’ve looked at bills that total more than our monthly income, and wondered how in the world we’d have enough money to pay bills if we tithed. But that first 10% is God’s. We have had MANY months where things just don’t add up on paper, but we gave God His portion of the money, and our bills always got paid. Those were some HARD months. That was when Stephen was bringing home $200 a week and our mortgage payment was over $700 a month. You do the math. God did a lot of miracles during that summer. But while it was unbelievably hard, that was when my faith grew the most too.

Fast forward to now. I’d love to say that we’re completely debt free and have 3-5 months of living expenses in the bank. But you know what? We’re not there yet. We’re still working on it. God has allowed us to see progress, and to be able to finally see what looks like it might be the end. :O) It’s been difficult at times, but it has been worth it.

Another reason we’re working so hard to become debt free is because Stephen answered God’s call to preach two summers ago. We want to reduce as many of our expenses as possible so that if God ever does place him in the position of a senior pastor, we won’t have extra bills hanging over our heads.

While we were looking for a new vehicle, we started looking and prayed that God would provide what we needed. We were ultimately able to buy this van by combining our tax refund with money we already had in savings.

To be honest, we did consider financing it. I know, there’s a lot of debate out there about whether or not vehicle debt is “smart debt” or not. We really didn’t want to finance the van to start with, but wanted to consider all our options. Interestingly enough, the bank wouldn’t lend us the money because the price the seller was asking was too low for their vehicle loan requirements. I’m thankful that God didn’t allow us to get the lending because it would have meant more debt for us to pay off, even if we did plan on paying it quickly. While paying for the van outright makes the next couple months tighter, in the long run I believe it’s worth it.

God has done some really amazing things while teaching us (ok, me) to trust Him. It’s been an interesting process, but I wouldn’t change it.

Cheap chocolate

The other day when I was grocery shopping at Walmart, I noticed that the Nestle chocolate chips were marked 2 for $2. I grabbed a few bags. The cheapest I’ve seen them lately has been $1.48, so I was happy to find some for $1. They rang up $.56 each. I don’t know why, but I’ll take it.

We went back to Walmart today to return a few things and get the rest of the groceries I didn’t have a chance to get last week. The chocolate chips were still $.56 a bag. We bought half a dozen more.

Now my freezer has a good 10 bags of chocolate chips in there. I’m so happy! We use them sometimes to calm a chocolate craving without eating too much chocolate in one sitting. We’re set for a while now.

That was really fun to find chocolate chips so cheap – and to find a name brand that cheap was even better.

Coupon craziness

First of all, let me just say that I am immensely grateful for coupons and the stores that multiply them. That helps our grocery budget so much.

This week, Harris Teeter is doing a triple coupons promotion. I usually find out about these a week or so in advance, thanks to coupon forums like www.hotcouponworld.com and www.afullcup.com (I subscribe to the forums in a feed reader – so it doesn’t take long at all to skim post titles to read if a great event is coming). Harris Teeter’s rules are pretty simple. 20 coupons a day, and no more than 3 like coupons.

As usual, I ordered several batches of coupons off ebay. I get lots of 10 to 20 of the same coupon, and choose items that we either need, really like, or stockpile well. This time, I got coupons for meats, bread, sugar, etc.

I walked into the store this morning around 7:15. It had been my understanding that triples started at 7, so I thought the timing was pretty good. I passed some pretty upset-looking ladies on my way in. I could tell they were couponers because of part of the conversation I heard and the giant file box one of them was holding.

Once inside, I headed for the items I figured would sell out the fastest. To my surprise, the shelf was already almost empty! There were a couple left for me, so I went on.

A few minutes later, I heard a manager talking to some other employees about “we’ll beat them at their own game.” Great. . .trouble was brewing.

When I went to check out, I could see several carts full of coupon items and the really upset ladies were up front, and still just as upset. I’m not too sure what happened – it looked like they were trying to break the rules and got caught or something. Maybe they tried to do multiple trips and got stopped. Who knows. But they were MAD and it was plenty obvious.

It added fuel to something I’ve been pondering for a while now anyway. Just why do we coupon in the first place? Is it to have the biggest stockpile ever, and brag about it on the internet? Is it to see just how many of the same item we can get for free? Is it to see if we really can get $300 worth of merchandise for just $.02?

There’s nothing wrong with stockpiling – we’re getting more into that a little bit ourselves. We buy what we can when things go on sale, to hopefully last us until the next sale. It’s a great way to buy the things we usually use at the lowest price possible. But really, what average family can really eat 47 boxes of oatmeal before it goes bad? Or brownie mixes? Or sausage? Why do people feel the need to completely clean the grocery store shelves, just so they say they got a bargain? Whatever happened to being a considerate person?

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not upset. But after what I saw today, I can’t help but wonder how many couponers are motivated by greed. I know it’s tempting when grabbing the best deals to get them all, but on the other hand, I want to be considerate. How many other moms are out there, hoping to get some good deals just to stretch their small grocery budget? If that’s MY motivation for going – surely I’m not the only one. It’s not like those stores are obligated to offer triples.

And about how I did – ring sausage for $.25, popcorn shrimp for just over $1 a box, 100% whole wheat bread for $.40 – made my trip totally worth it. I even got to get a couple new flavors of coffee creamer I’ve wanted to try. :O) Some of the things went right to stock the freezer a little bit, and some of the others were just a treat.

So tomorrow I’m hoping to head back up there for another run. I might be joining a lady from church. We’ll see. Showing someone how to do triple coupons is always fun!

Who says couponing can't be healthy?

Today I did a coupon run to Lowe’s Foods. They’re tripling coupons this week, after not holding a triples promotion for about a year.

My total before coupons and scanning my card was $104 something. After all the coupons, here is what I bought:

2 kids’ toothbrushes
2 tubes Colgate whitening toothpaste
1 bottle bathroom cleaner
4 packages Gerber Graduates baby munchies
6 cans reduced sodium Progresso soup
8 boxes frozen Green Giant veggies
12 bags steamfresh veggies
1 3-roll package paper towel
6 boxes microwave popcorn
3 warm delight brownie bowls

While I did buy a few snacks (we LOVE popcorn), for the most part what I bought was healthy food. That goes to prove you CAN buy healthy foods with coupons. Yesterday I was able to buy 100% whole wheat bread, brown rice, and some link sausage and bratwurst (high in sodium but as little as we eat it, I don’t mind once in a while. And we love it).

I had clipped some $1 off 3 steamfresh veggies coupons, thinking they’d be a good deal if I found them on sale somewhere. While I was getting some of the other veggies today, I noticed that the steamfresh really were on sale. While the $1 coupons didn’t triple (or double), they still made each bag about $.60 if I remember correctly. Canned veggies are cheaper than that, but there’s more in a bag than in a can and the taste is SO much better. Then, as I put the veggies in my cart, a lady asked me if I wanted any more of the steamfresh coupons. She gave me two more coupons, and I ended up with 6 more packages of vegetables. It was great!

My total out of pocket today – $35.09. My freezer is pretty full of veggies. I’m happy. I’m going back tomorrow, but I need to go back through my coupons again because they were out of a few things today that I wanted. We’re starting to have to get creative with pantry storage space, but that’s just fine with me. It’s all food we actually eat. Well, we don’t eat the brownies on a regular basis, but they’re a nice treat every now and then. :O)

Thrift store finds

I almost stopped at the Value Village thrift store yesterday, but ended up not going. That was a good thing. Today, I called my friend Stephanie for a totally different reason, and she told me that Value Village was doing a half off sale today. As soon as Stephen got home from work, I headed up there.

It was crazy – I got SO many clothes today! I went looking for the guys, and did pretty well for all of them. Some of the prices I don’t remember exactly, but here’s a list of what came home with me:

For Stephen:
4 polo shirts (brands like Nautica and Chaps for about $2.50 each)
2 pairs of khakis ($2.25 for one and $4.50 for the other pair)

Me:
Two sleeveless tops ($.75 and $1.25) – great for layering. The $.75 one is 100% silk!
3 pairs of “fun” socks. I have a thing for funky socks, lol. ($.30 and $.40 a pair)

S:
1 Duck Head vest ($1)
3 polos (Baby Gap – it looks brand new – paid $1 for it)
Most important – a new-to-him John Deere t-shirt ($.50) LOL!

C:
3 t-shirts
1 long-sleeved dress shirt (about $1)
2 pairs dress pants (Old Navy and Children’s Place – $1 each)
1 pair Carter’s sweat pants – brand new, never worn (also $1)
1 long-sleeved romper/play outfit (one piece, shirt and pants – Children’s Place, $1.25)

Overall I spent $32.01 and some change. It was a real blessing to be able to go. I keep a running list of our clothing needs in my Palm and it’s nice to be able to take so many of those needs off the list.

Another triples trip

Stephen stopped by HT on his way from work today, and did really well. That surprised me. A lot of the coupons he took were for free items – which I incorrectly assumed would be out of stock. Some of the items were gone, but not all of them like I thought. The store he stopped at is farther from our house, so we don’t generally go to that one for triples. It’d be nice if it were closer though because the store is huge and really well-stocked. I’m thankful he could stop there today though!

He spent $10.20 and saved $31.31, and only used 14 coupons. I told him I had half a mind to go back in to the closest HT tonight and use the other 6, lol. I’d do an entirely new coupon run but want to stay within their 20 coupons per household per day rule.

There is more grocery shopping we need to do, but most of what we need right now is not on our triples list. It’s cheaper to get those things elsewhere though. We’ll be in town tomorrow morning for soulwinning, and we could go grocery shopping then, but that makes for a really long morning with the extra stops.

Ah. Decisions, decisions. It’ll all work out. Now, if I can ever make up my mind!

Triple coupons

Harris Teeter is tripling coupons again – YAY! I LOVE triple coupons!

This morning my alarm went off at 5, and I was able to get out the door by 6:15. That was a bit of a surprise, lol. From now on, I will always try to go first thing like that. The shelves were stocked, the store was quiet, there aisles weren’t filled with rude people. . .it was great.

I didn’t think I had that many coupons, but after my first trip, I guess there’s more than I thought. There were several things I didn’t get to (there’s a 20 coupon limit). It’s ok – the things I got today were mostly the free things that likely won’t be in stock later in the weekend.

I spent $6.52, and saved $37.90. That works for me!

One thing I thought was really neat was that since the sour cream was on sale, I got an additional $.80 off for each carton I bought. There were a few other things that weren’t free, so that balanced out really well.

Gerber keeps sending me coupons, and that makes jars of baby food about $.10 each. Nice. I’ve been making baby food myself, so I tried to get kinds that I don’t usually make myself. The empty jars will be nice to be able to reuse too.

Stephen will drive by a HT tomorrow on his way home from work, so I’ll send some coupons with him. Then when we’re in town Saturday, I’m hoping to stop by again.

My favorite though is probably the oatmeal. We go through old fashioned oats like crazy, and I have coupons for it. The best part? It’s on sale, making it completely free with coupons.

I love couponing!