Thursday, November 29, 2007

Frugal Confessions Thursday

We all have them- times when we were too cheap, times when we made poor financial decisions, and times when we were too extravagant. I have made many non-frugal and ultra-frugal decisions in the past and I want to share my mistakes with you! (I know, there might not be enough hosting space on Blogger! ;)

We are only human. No matter how hard we try, we will never stop making mistakes. Thankfully, our Lord is so forgiving, and His blood has covered our sins and mistakes. Through Him, we can get over ourselves, ask for and accept His forgiveness, stop feeling guilty about the past and go on to share what He has taught us. Sometimes we just need to let our guards down so that others can see where we've been and how we learned from our mistakes. I know that for me, the process is also cathartic- it helps me to let go of all those mistakes by sharing them.

That's why I am going to host Frugal Confessions on Thursdays- I am still in the process of learning how to be more frugal, and I am so relieved and encouraged when I read that someone else is like me and trying to do better with their finances. So starting next week, I will be posting a frugal confession each Thursday.

If you have any frugal confessions you'd like to get off your chest, please share them with us starting next week! You will be able to post them in the comments or on your blog and leave a link in the comments (I hope to have a linking system or carnival entry soon!).

Monday, November 26, 2007

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Nice Thanksgiving Break with Little Spending!

We had a great Thanksgiving break- we had family over, ran a 5 k, and did a little bit of Black Friday shopping.

While perusing the ads on Thanksgiving Day, I noticed that there weren't many good sales this year. It wasn't for a lack of ads, however. I looked at all of the ads, but it seemed to me like there wasn't much that was worth actually buying. It was a very strange experience for me. Since I was a pre-teen, I have loved to pore over the ads in anticipation of the best deals, planning what I would buy for others and what I wanted for Christmas.

This year was different though. I didn't want to buy anything the ads offered. I think that it all came down to the change in perspective that we had this year. Seeing all these items on sale no longer motivated me to spend money like it had in the past. Paying off debt has become far more important than getting the best deal on something I probably don't need.

There was only one thing in all the ads that we deemed worthy of shopping for this year- a $22 5x7 rug at Lowe's. I have been shopping for a rug that size since last year when we moved in our house- I just couldn't find a decent one for under $100, so I never bought one.

This year I got a beautiful rug at Lowe's at 3 p.m. on Black Friday (no early birds at my house ;). It matches our decor perfectly, we didn't fight any crowds, and we didn't have to pay much at all for it! Not only did we get a wonderful deal on something we really needed, we also saved money by not buying unnecessary things like we might have done in the past. It really was a great Thanksgiving (and Black Friday!).

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

$20 off $20 or more at BabyCenter.com

Get $20 off $20 or more at BabyCenter when you use the code 22298ENFAMIL. I got a fancy baby bathtub that we've been needing for a while since Isabella won't fit in the bathroom sink anymore, and one of those wonderful laminated bibs that last forever (in pink!) for .23 plus $7.75 shipping. I received an additional 6% off by clicking through my account at FatWallet.com. Now would certainly be a great time to pick up any upcoming baby shower gifts!

*Edited- this deal has expired

No Used Car Yet...

We are still waiting, patiently looking for our new old car. :) We haven't heard from the guy we talked to before. My brother surreptitiously emailed him for us to see if he still had the car, and asked his bottom dollar. The man replied that he had the car and gave his bottom dollar which was, of course, much higher than we offered. Since we offered a price fairly low for the value of the car, I doubt he would sell it to us. But you never know, God sometimes works in surprising ways!

We also are looking at *very* inexpensive cars- like $1000-$1500 cars. That amount of money isn't what it used to be, that's for sure! I wonder if Dave has actually looked at those $1000 cars lately ;). I would feel rather unsafe with three small children in a vehicle that costs $1000. Another constraint we face is that we have three littles in car seats, so we have to have a bench wide enough to hold three car seats in a row. We need about 54 inches minimum. Older cars were much smaller than those that are made today, so we have to find a van or SUV to fit us all.

We have talked about placing our car in the newspaper, but we haven't done it yet. I'm really not sure why we haven't- maybe we will get to it over the long weekend.

We also may have an opportunity to gain extra money to pay off our current car in the next few months by selling some property we own, but as the market is rather soft these days, we are not relying on selling it. We want to get out of debt, even if it's the hard way! :)

Black Friday 2007

We normally don't do much Black Friday shopping, and we rarely get out of bed earlier than usual to get to the store. I think the best BF deal we've ever gotten was a $25 king-size down comforter from Target. We also got an undercounter CD player for $25. Wal-Mart usually has decent deals, and they often have the sale item in stock.

This year Wal-Mart is having "secret sales" in which you can get text messages or emails sent to you with the "secret items" on sale. How much of a secret is it when they print it at the bottom of your receipt? Secret or not, you can have them send you the info here.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Not so Subtle Marketing...

After spotting some blatant marketing at the shoe store the other day, I have certainly become more aware of the not so subtle "buy it now" messages everywhere.

When we went used car shopping last weekend, here's what was on the wall by the salesman's desk:
This was just an outright attempt to get you to buy the car NOW. I am just about disgusted with this kind of sales tactic. It's absolutely ridiculous! Car dealerships have even stooped to a new low.

Pressure tactics are the salesman's favorite tool when it comes to car buying, but it's not usually a sign on a wall that's pushing you to buy!

Salesmen first make you wait, and wait and wait longer to get some numbers on paper. You are already anxious by this point, just because you wonder what's taking so long, and you start getting a little impatient because you want to get on with it. Then they offer some outrageous price so when they offer you a little bit less you'll feel like you are getting a deal. If you refuse the deal, the cycle repeats. Waiting and more waiting. They are trying to wear you down, so that you'll take whatever they throw at you, just because you're tired. It's all tactic and psychological games.

They also try to make you feel bad for asking for a better deal, like you are trying to rip them off or are making them lose money. Trust me, they aren't going to allow themselves to lose money. You just have to be insistent. We have found that buying late at night expedites the whole process. Everyone wants to go home, so they either do the deal, or they won't.

When we went used car shopping last weekend, we waited an hour to get a price on paper. The numbers they threw out at us were so off, we stood up and walked out, because there was just no use in trying to bargain- we were never going to meet. The vehicle that we wanted to buy was new to the lot and it was early in the month, so they weren't dying to make a deal. They figured they could get more money out of someone else.

We have made it all the way to the finance office before on a car after getting their "absolute bottom dollar." We decided the interest rate was too high and we didn't love the car, so we walked out. The next day they called and offered us $500 off the car. Car dealerships will almost always call you back within a day with a better deal if you leave the deal on the table after negotiating. Patience and a tough skin will serve you well at a car dealership.

I know for us, the more we know about sales tactics, and the more we see through the marketing ploys, the less we fall prey to their schemes. It's important to realize that every business out there is trying to get your money! When you realize that, you'll hold on to it even tighter. :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Patiently Used Car Shopping...

We found an awesome SUV for sale by owner- low mileage for it's age, it's supposed to run forever, and three rows of seats with leather. We really like it. We drove it for a long time and decided to make an offer on it.

We made an offer on the upper limit of what we would like to spend. Unfortunately, the offer was much lower than the price the guy wanted for the vehicle. He said he had a couple of people interested in the car and that he wasn't saying no, but he might get a higher price from the others. So we gave him our card and asked him to please contact us if it doesn't sell.

It's so much different to buy a car face to face. Those car salesmen at dealerships have it all worked out so that everyone can blame some unseen face in a back office. It's much more tense to buy person-to-person. You almost feel bad asking for a good deal! ;)

I'll confess, I am a little anxious about the situation since we still have a chance to get the car. But the waiting is all we have left. If the car doesn't sell by the end of the week, we might get it. Now we're just patiently waiting for the best deal. This is certainly the weirdest car-buying experience we've had yet!

Monday, November 12, 2007

Carnivals 11/5/07

I participated in a few carnivals last week:

Carnival of Personal Finance- hosted by My Two Dollars. I submitted my post, Great Thought on Personal Finance.

Carnival of Debt Reduction- hosted by Cash Money Life
. My post Clearing out the Clutter was included there.

Festival of Frugality- hosted by I've Paid Twice for This Already. My post Birthdays on the Cheap
was included in the festival.

Thanks to all who hosted the carnivals!

Trading Down in Cars

After finding out I was pregnant, early this year we traded in our beautiful coupe on our current car. It was before we started on our mission to become debt-free. We knew that we wanted to try to go down in car for the sake of cheaper payments but we also wanted a third-row seat and no mini-vans. I really didn't want a van. I know, materialistic isn't it? If it gets you from point A to point B it shouldn't matter what it looks like. But somehow it still mattered.

We traded in our coupe on a late model used Toyota Highlander with a third row so we could fit lots of kids inside. We got what we felt was a good deal on it, and we were happy. It was still a rather expensive loan with high monthly payments because we rolled in negative equity.

Enter the major revolution in our lives to become debt-free. After listening to Dave Ramsey's radio show, we heard over and over "dump the car." It made sense. We pay more for a car payment than some people we know pay for housing. Yikes.

Why exactly were we hanging on to a depreciating hunk of metal? What made it so more "valuable" than a cheaper car? Reliability? Looks? My husband can fix anything, and my dad knows a lot about cars, so we would be okay if it needed occasional repairs. Looks- well, I would just have to live what I believe is true- that material possessions are not what this world is about. All that really matters to us is that the car is pretty reliable and that it fits our growing family. My spouse's car will not hold our family, so this would be the only car we could all ride in. It's important that it won't break down frequently.

So, here we are, trying to "dump the car" as Dave says. It is a lovely vehicle, and we haven't had a single problem with it. It runs as well as every new car we have bought. Our biggest problem now is that we owe more on it than it's worth. We have negative equity in it.

If we get a loan for a cheaper car, we would have to find a way to finance the difference that we owe on the Highlander. At this point, we are shopping for a much older used car and trying to find out how to finance the difference. We could possibly get a personal loan at a bank, or put it on a very low-interest credit card. There are a lot of important decisions to make. We don't want to make the same mistakes that we have made in the past. Decisions like these are not easily made when you are trying to get the best deal and get out of debt.

Something that is comforting to us is that the whole situation is going to work out in God's timing. We are praying to make the right decisions and that God will open the doors for us to allow us to get out of debt. It's hard not to try to figure it all out on my own (as I often try to do), but I know that if it is in God's will for us, He will make it happen.

Friday, November 9, 2007

Free Downloadable Price Book Form

No Credit Needed has so generously shared his price book with the world. It is in both Open Office and Microsoft spreadsheet formats for you to download and print out! I have never used a price book before, but it seems to be a great money saving tool. Now that I have a form to use I might just get started using it during this week's grocery trip!

Check out more frugal tips over at Crystal's blog!

Wednesday, November 7, 2007

CVS Deals this Week

This was a great shopping week at CVS- I got a ton of stuff that I needed for our household- diapers, milk, cereal, soap, water, and hair products. I just started shopping at CVS this spring and I am amazed by the deals that can be had there.
My online balance shows I have spent $141, and that I have saved $635. Now that total isn't entirely correct because I have had to get refunds for things that didn't ring up correctly, which brings my savings much higher and my spending much lower. But it's fairly close to the actual numbers.
Some of the biggest resources I have for finding CVS deals are the Slickdeals and Families CVS forums. MoneySavingMom has recently started working each week's deals for newbies, and I often find good coupons there too.
If you haven't tried the CVS game, I really encourage you to give it a shot. We rarely pay anywhere close to regular price on household goods (and often pay nothing!) now that we get such great deals at CVS.

Monday, November 5, 2007

Consumerism and the Shoe Store

As we walked around on Sunday window shopping for a good price on shoes, we stopped into a new shoe store in town. After noticing the terrible prices on less-than-average quality shoes, high on the wall, I saw these words built into the decor:

"Life is short. Buy the shoes."

At first I couldn't believe they were so blatantly marketing to their shoppers. It was just shocking to see those words across a 5 foot span on a main wall.

After the initial shock, I felt disgusted at the no-holds-barred approach of the message they were sending. The fact that they were implying that the shoes were the key to my happiness and I should do whatever it takes to get them just irked me.

That message was very obvious, and for me, it even had the opposite effect of what was intended. I did not want to buy any shoes there.

But as I reflect on the whole situation, it's not what I noticed in the shoe store that bothers me the most- it's which marketing ploy did I fail to notice that day? What sly marketing scheme did I buy into subconsciously?

I don't know if that phrase would have bothered me in the past, but since trying to live more frugally, I would have to say I am increasingly more aware of the marketing of consumer goods. My goal is to become more and more immune to it.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Victoria's Secret Deals

Thanks to the Bargain Shopper Lady, I found this great deal she posted at Victoria's Secret. Buy any sweater (even clearance!) and get free boucle hat, gloves and scarf! Even sweeter than that, add these codes to get a free lip gloss 4 pack, another free lip gloss, and $5 off your first purchase! Wohoo! All that for about $17 shipped if you buy a clearance sweater! Sounds like a few awesome Christmas gifts!

Saturday, November 3, 2007

Carnivals 10/29/07

I was so happy to be included in this week's 98th Festival of Frugality, so graciously hosted by BeingFrugal. I submitted the post Saving Money Dining Out During Birthday Week.