Thursday

Kait - playing around with the Mac

Here is a sweet picture Kait created - drawn freehand and colored in with the Mac.

Love it!

Friday

Stumbled Upon an Old Friend's Creativity

I know a lot of tremendously talented people. And I keep waiting for one of them to actually achieve success.

And, so, it was with great encouragement that I stumbled upon the 7 Layer Studio blog the other day.

I used to go to school with Shelley WAAAAAAY back in our younger days. And I am so excited to see the creative ideas and inspiration showcased at her site. (this photo reveals just one of the MANY projects you'll find from Shelley there)

While it's not a topic I am really that interested in, I thought you might find some great ideas. There's plenty to see and enjoy.

Shelley, it's great to see you doing so well! I hope you keep right on going!
All the best,
Al

Sunday

Selling a Piece of My History - the Chicken is Leaving the Coop

I honestly can't believe I am writing this right now.

I have put my chicken websites up for sale. You can read more about the sale at that link.

I have been running the Chicken Coop Plan website for over 5 years. It feels like I'm giving up a piece of my heart by selling it. On the same hand, it feels like that piece of my heart has been strangling me and holding me back for the last 2-3 years. It feels like I should be holding onto the past, even though it's a past that is dead and gone to me.

Anyhow, there is a $250 reserve on the sites, so if they don't go above that they won't actually sell. However, the content included, and the free traffic they generate should be worth WAY more than that.
ChickenCoopPlan.com
ChickenNews.com
Chikins.com

If you've ever wanted to own a piece of one of the first profitable chicken websites on the internet, this could be your chance. Ideally, you probably want to know something about chickens, raising chickens, building chicken coops, and also have a desire to share what you know with other readers.

Let me know if you have any questions?
All the best!
Al


P.S. Just to add a comment to this post - as of Friday 6/3, the reserve price has officially been met on the chicken coop sites.

So... I will be selling these sites, and leaving the chicken market for a while.
It's been good knowing you!

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Friday

More savings.

It has been a while since I have shared my grocery savings. Not for there being a lack of them but more from a lack of motivation to post it. So I figured I had better just jump back in to posting with both feet. Here is what I have gotten over the last couple weeks.
Last week Publix had a great coupon in the weekly ad. It was the Gas card. So I tried to make the most of it and I did a couple different transactions so that I could get the most gas gift cards. The total for both transactions before sales and coupons would have been $396.61 And what I paid out of pocket was $157.27. I know that that sounds like a lot but I was able to purchase $200.00 worth of Gas cards! That is a total saving of 61%. Not my "best" saving but it is a great savings on our gas budget for the next month and a half and I was able to get some groceries as well!
Here is the first transaction...

4- Edwards Singles pies $2.99 BOGO used Manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each
making them .49 each

2- Steamfresh frozen veggies sale of .89 each used manufactures coupons for .35 off
each making them .54 each

4- Whole Fruit Sorbet $2.99 BOGO used manufactures coupons for .50 off each making
them $1.00 each.

4- Sundown Vitamins $2.99 each used a store coupons for $3.00 off each and
manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each making them
FREE with a total of $4.04 OVERAGE!!

1- Gallon of Milk $3.75 No coupons used for this

1- Package 1.5lb Ground beef $4.27 I used a Winn Dixie store coupon for $2.00 off
making it $2.27 or $1.51 per lb.

1- Package Boneless skinless chicken breast 1.65lb $4.57 I used a $1.50 off making
it $3.07 or $1.86 per lb.

4- Bags Peperidge Farms dinner rolls $3.00 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00
off each making them $1.00 each.

4- ears corn on the cob .25 each No coupons used for this.

2- Nabisco Single serving packs $5.99 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00 each
making them $1.99 each

4- Classico pasta sauces $2.69 BOGO used a manufactures coupon for buy 2 get one
free making them .67 each

2- 8O'clock coffee bags $6.59 used manufactures coupon for $2.00 off 2 making them
$2.29 each

4- Milano cookies $3.49 I used manufactures for free cookies when you buy the
8O'clock coffee so they were all free!

1- Coffee mate creamer $3.79 I used a manufactures coupon for free coupon making it
FREE!!

1- Uncle Bens Ready rice $1.99 used manufactures coupon for a free rice making it
FREE!!

1- 5 lb bag of red potatoes $ 2.50 No coupons used on this


1- Philadelphia cooking cream $2.00 used a manufactures coupon for free cooking
cream making it FREE!!

6- $25.00 Hess Gass Gift Cards ( they were already out of the $50.00 cards) I used
the Publix store coupon for $10.00 off a $50.00 gift card purchase. Making
them $40.00 each
Also for this purchase I used Winn Dixie store coupons for $5.00 off a $30.00 purchase. I used 4 of them for a total of $20.00 off my purchase. These are used before any other store or manufactures coupons So that is how I was able to use that many. The total before sales and coupons was $282.89. And after $112.57.

And Here is my second transaction of that week.

1- Gallon Milk $3.75 No coupons used

4- Sundown Vitamins $2.99 used a store coupon for $3.00 off each and manufactures
coupons for $1.00 off each making them FREE with a total OVERAGE of $4.04

4- Kikoman Fried rice seasoning packages .89 each Used manufactures coupons for
$1.00 off each making the FREE with a total OVERAGE of .44

4- 6 count eggs .99 each used manufactures coupons for .55 off each making them .44
each

4- Bags 8 O'clock coffee $6.59 BOGO used manufactuers coupons for $2.00 off 2 making
them $2.29 each

4- Milano cookies $3.49 used manufactures coupons for free cookies when you buy the
coffee making them all FREE!

1- $50.00 Hess Gas Gift Card I used the Publix store coupon for $10.00 off when you buy a $50.00 gas card. Making it $40.00

I also used a Windixie store coupon for $5.00 off a $30.00 purchase. Total before sales and coupons was $114.14 After, what I paid out of pocket was only $44.70!

I was able to extend my grocer saving into out gas budget! How great is that?!?


So now on to this weeks saving.
The total before sales and coupons would have been $118.08. And after was only $10.17! That is a total savings of 92%!!
This is what I got...

2- Hunts Ketchup $2.45 BOGO used manufactures for .25 off each making them .97 each

6- Vlasic Dill Pickles $2.69 BOGO used store coupons for .55 off each and
manufactures coupons for .75 off each making them .04 each!

4- Hidden Valley Dressings $3.69 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each
making them .84 each

4- Sundown Vitamins $2.99 each used store coupons for $3.00 off each and
manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each making them FREE with a total OVERAGE
of $4.04


4- Publix bakery Bagels $1.69 BOGO no coupons used making them .84 each

4- Welches Grape Juice $3.99 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each
making them .99 each

2- Cokes $1.59 Used a manufactures coupons for free soda making the both FREE!

6- Kraft Homestyle Mac and cheese $2.59 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off
each making them .29 each

2- McCormick Garlic powders $1.99 each used manufactures coupons for .55 off each
making the $1.44 each

4- Yakisoba Noodles .80 BOGO used manufactures coupons for .50 off each making them
FREE with a total OVERAGE of .40

1- Pack Blueberries $2.99 used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 off making them $1.99

4- ears of corn on the cob $1.00 used manufactures coupon for $1.00 off making the
FREE!

2- Bags Dorito Chips $3.99 BOGO no coupon used making them $1.99 each

1- 2 liter Pepsi $1.89 Used Publix store coupon for free 2 liter when you buy 2
doritoes making it FREE!

I also used 2 Winn Dixie store coupons 50 $5.00 0ff a $30.00 purchase. Again taken off before all other coupons! Making my total out of pocket only $10.17 and a savings of 92%!!
Thanks for letting me share!

Sunday

Toby Mac comes to Lakeland, FL

We've been in Florida almost 4 years now. And the girls are getting OLD. It's scary to see how fast time goes by.

However, one of the coolest parts of aging children is that they start actually having their own thoughts and opinions about life and culture. One of Kaitlyn's recent favorites is a singer named Toby Mac. He used to sing with a band called DC Talk. They started as a band when I was in college, and were hugely successful. A few years ago they went their separate ways, and have all gone their separate ways in the music industry.

Toby Mac, who I originally thought would fail as a solo artist, simply because all he could do was rap music back then, has developed tremendously as a singer and artist. Kaitlyn LOVES his music, and it has caused me to really listen to his stuff too. I now have about 3-4 of his songs in my ipod as encouragement for my bike commute.

Anyhow, Chris and I splurged a few months ago, and picked up tickets to his show in Lakeland this month. And the day FINALLY arrived to go up there.

So, here are some of the highlights from our time up there:

First of all, you can see a couple pictures of us in line at the show, and inside the building here:
The Joy FM sponsors Toby Mac in Lakeland
Shots of us include #'s 2605, 2607, 2608, and 2818.

And then here are a few shots of us hanging out before, during, and after the show:









Another great thing about the girls new tastes in music, is that it has lead me to discover some bands that I would have never normally listened to.

Here are a few free tunes you might check out. These are some of the musicians that were with Toby Mac in concert.

This guy has the #1 song in Christian radio right now - called Something in your Eyes.
Shon Lock - is the guy in the 3rd picture from the top (above)
You can hear the ShonLock.com song here. Click on the "Enter" button at the bottom. The song auto-plays when you click through.
You can download it on itunes here.


And another band that was pretty cool - was a new group called SuperHeRose, click their name and you'll be able to download a couple of their tunes.
The girls really liked SuperFreak and We Got That. The first and second pictures (above) are a couple of guys from this band.

It was a great show, and we had a good time together. Toby puts on a killer show.
Al

Monday

Time to create!!

So for a while now I have been trying to figure out how to get my creative juices going. It seems like my creative side has been napping for a while. so I saw this idea for an art journal and thought that would be a great place to start. But I also wanted to include the girls in this art journey. So we all made art journals. They are some books that I have had for a long time and I thought what better use that this!
We each decorated out covers.
This is mine...

This is Keeley's...

And Kait's...

Here is a better look at each of our charms that we hung off the bottom of the cover with jump rings.



There is all kinds of things there. Keeley's is kinda hard to see in the photo but the black bottle caps have letter stickers on them and say "Me!" also the blur charm thing in the silver book plate on her cover says magic. And on mine I added come beads that a co-worker made by hand. They are just beautiful!
Kait's has room for more things that she will add as she finds them!
And this is the first page ineack of our journals. For this page I told the girls what I wanted them to say and then let them decide how to get that done.
Kee's...

Kait's...

and Mine...

Keeley decided to paint her background and then stamp and write over it. I love how she did the square, rectangle and heart and then stamped over them.
Kait and I put printed tissue paper on the background then dripped paint over it. Then Kait added chipboard letters and stamped a script samp over them and embossed it with white powder.
I used a die cut to make the gears and embossed them with several layers of embossing powder and then finished them all a bit differently. one by rubbing black paint on, and the other 2 by adding just a little sprinkling of a different color embossing powder while it was still hot. I like how that worked!
Al has even gotten in on the creating! Here is Al's pages that he has done.


Do you see a theme??

I also decided that a Spring garland that I had made a couple years ago looked a little lonely. So I decided to make a banner garland to go along with it. And I love how it turned out!! Here it is hanging with the Spring banner on my old door that is hung in the entry way of our house.
It is a little hard to see it so here are photos of each of the banners.




On the first one the bunny was cut out of a scrapbook paper. The same paper was used for the bunnies on the third and fifth one as well. The eggs I just cut out of plain white cardstock and then inked them and stamped and embossed them to make them look like decorated Easter eggs.
Them Flower cross picture and little chicks with the flower filled egg were vintage images that I found on the web and printed them in black and white. (because I don't have color ink for my printer right now!) Then I colored them in with water color paints. I love how they turned out! Then the cross that is in the book plate I cut out of cardstock and embossed with gold powder to make it look like a charm!
The trims that I used around the edges are different vintage trims that I had in my stash. Actually the trim on the 4th one was actually flower appliques that I got from my mom. I cut them apart 2 petals each and then glued them all along the back of the banner. I ended up having just enough to do the entire banner! Looks great and you would have never been able to tell that they were flowers!
Thanks for looking at our creative endeavors!. Hopefully we will have more to share in the near future!

Friday

Some Common Ground at Common Grounds Park in Lakeland Florida

Now that the weather is starting to really heat up, here in Florida, it's time for most everyone to venture back out into the sunshine.

One of the newest, most-enjoyable places for kids to do that in Lakeland is at the Common Grounds park. This park, which was budgeted at almost $2 million dollars broke ground in October 2007. The park, itself, took almost 4 years of planning to come to fruition. It was scheduled to take almost a year for construction to be completed. It officially opened in January 2009. The park address is 1000 East Edgewood Drive.

Since it's inception, this park has seen heavy traffic from lots of local kids and families.

On the weekends, you can expect a really high turn-out by everyone in the neighborhood. If you want to have a bit of privacy with your family here, you should plan on visiting during a weekday, when other kids are at school. It's certainly not packed, like a Disney theme-park, but it can get pretty crowded on the weekends.

If you're looking for directions to get here, this is the Google map:

View Larger Map

It's pretty easy to find:
Traveling on Highway 37 (South Florida avenue), you would take Edgewood towards the east. Or coming from Bartow Highway, or Lakeland Highlands Blvd., you will head west on Edgewood.

The park itself is on the north side of Edgewood, just across from the Cleveland Heights Golf Course. The park is right next to the tennis courts.

There is no usage fee to play at the park. Kids can play for free to their heart's content. Common Grounds park was designed to accommodate kids of varying ages and abilities, including disabled children as well.

Some of the various features include:
  • A large tunnel, wide enough for wheelchairs, runs under a hill called Gopher Mountain.
  • The park itself is shaped like a giant butterfly, and it includes several sculptures of butterflies.
  • Many of the play structures are non-traditional, modern in design, which kids seem to really enjoy playing on.
  • It is a conservation park, in that it has artificial turf (instead of regular grass) so no water or mowing is required to keep the grounds maintained.

There is free parking on the south side, right next to the tennis courts. There is also parking along the streets running north beside the park (Buckingham Avenue).

To see some Common Grounds park pictures, please check out our visit.

The concept behind this park has even generated interest from other local communities around the country. It seems, lots of families with disabled children, are desperately looking for places where their kids can interact with their friends and peers.

Al

Thursday

Fantastic saving!

Wow, I never get used to the great deals that I am able to work up. It always amazes me and fills with me with such thankfulness.
Before I get to the shopping savings I have to tell you that I was blessed yet again with a sweepstakes winning. Last week I got in the mail a winning Publix gift card for $100.00 dollars! I had entered this sweepstakes last fall and was picked as a first prize winner! How cool! So again I am going to keep track of how far I can stretch this free gift card. And let me say, so far it is looking very good!

And here is what I got this week at Publix. The total for everything before sales and coupons would have been $262.44. And the total that I paid, $11.12. A whopping 96% savings. And I could not be happier as I was able to get a lot of meat for that price. It is always a little harder to get that good of savings on meat but this week everything lined up perfectly.


1- gallon Milk $3.55 I used a Publix store coupon for $1.00 off making it @2.55

8- Kraft Shredded Cheese $2.00 used Target store coupons for $1.50 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 1 making them .25 each

4 Kraft BBQ sauce $1.65 BOGO used manufactures coupons for .75 of each making them .06 each

2- Beachnut baby foods $2.00 BOGO used manufactures coupons for $1.00 of each making the FREE!


2- Oreo Cakesters $2.50 used a target store coupon for $1.00 off each making them $1.50 each

2- Publix hot dog buns $1.19 no coupons used on these

4- Oscar Mayer hot dogs. $3.49 BOGO used Target store coupon for buy 3 get 1 free Making them FREE! (for further explanation on how this worked see below.)

4- Oscar Mayer Turkey hot dogs. $2.79 used manufactures coupons for buy a beef frank get a free Turkey frank making them all FREE! because this was a manufactures coupon and the other was a Target store coupon I was able to combine them with the sale and get them all free!

1lb Strawberries $1.67 used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 off making them .67

1- bag Broccoli florets $1.67 used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 making it .67

2 lbs Grapes $1.69per lb. used a store coupon for $1.00 off making them $2.36

6- Yoplait Fiber One Yogurt 4 packs. $2.50 BOGO used Target store coupons for %1.50 off 3 and manufactures coupons for .50 off each making them .25 each

4- Sundown Vitamins 2.99 each used Publix store coupons for $6.00 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each making them FREE with a total overage of $4.04!

22- Betty Crocker Fruit snacks $2.75 BOGO I used several manufactures coupons for BOGO and $4.00 off 4 and an Albertsons store coupon for $4.00 off 4 making tham all FREE with a total OVERAGE of $9.00!

9.2 lbs Ground Sirloin $3.99 per lb I used Winn Dixie store coupons for $2.00 of 1 making it 3.40 per lb or $31.32 for all of it.

12.9 lbs Pork Loin $1.99 per lb I used A Winn Dixie store coupon for $1.00 off and an Albertsons store coupon for buy 1 get 2 free making it .69 per lb or $8.96 for all of it

I also was able to use 5 Winn Dixie store coupons for $5.00 off a $30.00 purchase. This was taken off before any other coupons. So because my total before coupons was $160/something I was able to use all them! That is $25.00 right off the top! Add that to the overage items and I had a total of $38.04! Love it!!
Plus I was able to pay for it with my winning gift card so I technically had nothing out of pocket!


I never did post up last weeks saving. I won't list it all out but here are the final numbers. The total before saving and coupons for last weeks trip was $111.61. And after $7.98! A total saving of 93%! This was the first time that I used my wining gift card so again nothing out of pocket!
So far with my gift card I have used $19.10 and I have gotten $374.05 worth of groceries!! Couponing is so worth the little extra time that it takes to do! I think that is a good return on my investment!

Friday

I never thought this day would come.

So today was a monumental day for me. Want to know why? I shopped with coupons at Walmat and had a good experience. I have tried in the past to shop there and it had been a huge issue. Between waiting for ever in line to check out because there are so few cashiers, to them not taking a coupon because it would make an item free, and then infering that I am stealing from the store because of coupons. But that hopefully has all changed. Walmart has finally updated their coupon policy. You can check it out Here. This is a HUGE step in the right direction for them as far as couponers are concerned! For me the best thing is it very clearly states "Coupons may exceed the price of the item. Change may be given or applied toward the cost of the basket purchase." WOW! This is great!
So I went in today, armed with a print out copy of the policy, to try it out. I had 2 different sets of manufactures coupons that would give me a large amount of overage and I wanted to see how it would work out. And I am happy to say that it went very well. There was not even any questioning by the cashier and she even complimented me on my savings! Now I am smart enough to know that this may not happen every time but I am thankful that it went well this time and will try again in the future. And that is a lot since it has been nearly 2 years since I have purchased any groceries at Walmart.
And here is how I did. I paid $2.75 for all of this. The total before coupons would have been $ 48.85. So that is a great savings of 95%.
Here is a photo and run down of what I got...

5- Gain dryer sheets $1.87each I used manufactures coupons for $3.00 off 1 making them FREE with a total OVERAGE of $5.65!

5- Purex 3in1 Sheets .97 each I used manufactures coupons for $3.00 off 1 making them FREE with a total OVERAGE of $10.15!

2- Cupcake paper liners $1.12 each no coupons used.

1- Bobs country sauce $2.14 I used a manufactures for a free sauce making it FREE!

2- Beef Filets $3.98 each I used manufactures for $1.00 each making the $2.98

2- Cocoa Powders $2.44 each no coupons used.

1- Argo Baking powder $1.28 No coupons used

2.5lbs Red Grapes .98lb No coupons used making them $2.45

4- Mission Tortilla Chips $3.19 I used manufactures coupons for $2.99 off 1 making them .20 each

1- McCormik Seasoning mix .98 No coupons used.

I could have paid even less out of pocket but when I was headed to the check out I saw the good price on the grapes and decided to get some! But I would say that 2.75 for all this is great! It was nice to get the overage to use towards things that I needed and did not have coupons for.

So does this mean that I will stop shopping at Publix and switch to Walmart. No way! I have far to many personal issues with Walmart to do all my shopping there. And let me tell you there is no better customer service than Publix. So I will not be switching permanently any time soon. But When I have coupons for things that will make for free or overage items that I can not get at Publix then I will use my coupon money there at Walmart.

Thursday

More Gas savings this week!

With the gas prices going up I was super excited to see the $10.00 off gas card coupon in the Publix weekly add this week! And this time the coupon is for any $50.00 gas card not just B.P.! I was able to get 3 $50.00 Hess gas gift cards. And I only paid $120.00 for them. I chose Hess because it is closer and usually a little less per gallon that B.P. So there is a savings of 20% on gas!! I will most likely try and get a couple more before the sale ends. Essentially I am using our gas budget to prepaying for our gas by getting the gas gift cards at the grocery store. So this will be about a month and a half for us!

So now on to the groceries!

The total before sales and coupons would have been $168.99. The total out of pocket $20.30, for a saving of 88%!!

Here is what I got...

12- birds eye frozen veggies .89 each I used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 4 and Publix store coupons for $1.00 off 2 making them .05 each!

4- Yoplait smoothie bags $2.50 each I used Publix store coupon for $1.00 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 1 making them $1.00 each

1- egg beaters $1.67 I used a Publix store coupon for .75 and a manufactures coupon for a free egg beater. Making it an OVERAGE OF .75!

12- 2 litters soda BOGO $1.89 I used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 2 making them .44 each

10- Propel waters .50 each I used manufactures for $1.00 off 2 making them FREE!

4- Voskos Yogurt $1.00 each I used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off making them FREE!

1lb- Strawberries $1.67 I used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 making them .67

2.05lb Oranges $1.69 I used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 making them .69

1.75lb- Bananas $1.21 I used a manufactures coupon for $1.00 making them .21

4- Honey Bunches of Oats w/Raisins BOGO $3.91 I used manufactures coupons for $1.00 off each making them .95 each

6- Raisin Bran Crunch BOGO $3.99 I used Target store coupons for $1.00 off 3 and manufactures coupons for .70 off each making them .96 each

24- Sargento Shredded Cheese $2.00 I used Publix store coupons for $1.50 off each and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 2 making them all FREE!!

With Al being a huge cheese fan, and the girls and I also liking it, we use a lot of cheese. So to get it free is HUGE in this house! Also the 2 litters will be perfect to send with the girls for an AWANA overnight lock in next week!

So because the total before coupons was over $75.00 they allowed me to use 3 of the gas coupons. And the manager said it was fine to do them all at once and there was no need to break it into separate transactions. I was ready to do them into 3 transactions but it was nice doing it all at once!
And I also found out that you can use Albertsons store coupons at the Publix I go to, This is news to me so I am super excited about that possibility!! It is the little things that get me excited!!

Tuesday

Latest AWANA Grand Prix Race Cars and Results

Well, that time of year has stunk up on us again. Yep... It's AWANA Grand Prix time, and we were totally unprepared.

We just got the girls' cars about 2 weeks before our race deadline. And the girls weren't sure what they wanted to do with their cars, so they sat there for... oh... about 2 weeks. And then, Friday night, they realized they HAD to do something, or they weren't going to be able to compete with their cars at our AWANA group.

So, Friday night, they busted their little booties, and finished up their cars.

Keeley ended up going for a Lemony Snickets book design for her AWANA car. The cover of the book opens up on the car to reveal the table of contents inside. We had a buddy cut off the top, because I didn't have the tools to do it. She then added some book spine tape, to tape the top of the book onto the bottom block of wood. And then Keeley went through the painstaking process of painting everything so that it would look like a book. Unfortunately, I was hoping we could do the cover in color, but our printer cartridge only had black and white. Thank goodness Keeley is a very laid-back personality type, so she was happy to go with the lack of color.





Kait, went to the other extreme, and built what looked like a bunch of legos put together in a car shaped block. Her AWANA car was super bright and colorful. And from a distance, it actually looked like legos stuck together.




We thought we might have a chance at getting some design trophies... maybe? Even that was a little iffy, because the girls didn't have as much time to put their cars together as they had in the past. We definitely weren't sure how they would do in the speed department.

However, their results came out great. They did quite well with their AWANA Grand Prix entries for this year. Both of them got design trophies from their groups. And they both got speed trophies. Thankfully, we didn't have a tremendous amount of competitors, but hey... the girls were super excited to do so well again. Especially after our dismal results at last year's AWANA grand prix.

Great job to the Speer girls! I am SUPER proud of them for nailing it once again.
Al
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Saturday

Total Money Hangover

What would you say, if I told you that you could easily dig your way out of all your consumer debt in the next 3-5 years? And then, what if I said you could do it while remaining happy and healthy, your kids would be forever gratefully loving, and that you wouldn't have to worry about money ever again?

Well, in a way, that is exactly what the Total Money Makeover is trying to convey. It tells you, that it is possible to be out of debt, with very little worries, within the next 3-5 years... and all you have to do is live like no one else today, so you can live like no one else tomorrow.

Well, I'm hear to tell you, that there is only a slight hint of truth to this teaching. Most of the information is not designed for a one income family that makes $40k or less.

The author provides many examples that are purely irrational, or totally impossible, for a normal family on this income to ever hope to achieve.

First:
The upgrading car principle is bull. When you need a reliable car now, you need a reliable car now. You can't buy a crappy car in 4 months, and expect to upgrade every 4 months until you get a stunningly reliable ride. First of all, you need the reliable car now. What are you going to do? Walk? Or ride your bike? You need something now, not in 4 months when you'll be able to afford the worst junker on the car lot. Plus, when you do purchase the clunker, how often are you able to drive it without having to repair it at some point, or not have it break down on you? And how realistic is it to have your wife and kids riding around in a car that you know could break down at any moment? Yeah... I didn't think so!

Personally, you are better off buying the nicer, more reliable car (never buy brand new, but you knew that right?) to begin with, and then paying it off early. And, then, stop buying a new car every two years. That is one of the most asinine things you could do... keep rolling over into a new car purchase or lease every couple years. Buy a good car, and keep driving it until it falls apart.

Next:
The idea that you can just go out, and pick up part-time jobs, to jump-start your savings plan is ludicrous. Sure, getting a second part-time job is easy enough. But, it's not normal if you want to have any time at all with your spouse, or if you want to have a marriage left at the end of your savings spree. And, it's also not recommended if you want to have any time to share with your children.

Let's just look at a quick example. Say, you work 40-45 hours per week. Now, you want to get a second job working 4 nights a week and weekends for 20-30 more hours. So, you will only see your spouse and kids twice a week, for any length of time. Next, let's say your spouse also works a job. So, they are gone more often as well. And now, your kids will have to go into a public school, no matter if you want that or not. And they will still be sitting home, alone, for hours, until you or your spouse get off of work and make it home.

If you want to have a decent marriage, this is NOT the way to do it.

Personally, I think you are far better off trying to run some kind of part-time small business out of your house, and including your spouse in the business with you. That way, you can both spend time together, doing something you somewhat enjoy, and you will be home. Oftentimes, by spending this time, and working together, you create bonds that help build and grow your marriage relationship. This may not be a feasible alternative for every family, but what a great way to save your sanity, your marriage, and your long-term relationship with your kids.

In fact, I think it's safe to say, your relationship with your kids will be hurt by pursuing this type of lifestyle. It's tempting to say... "Oh, it's only a couple of years, it won't be that bad". But, I'm here to tell you that you will never get those years back with your kids... NEVER! If you've ever said... "They're growing up so fast". Just think of what it will be like when you disappear for two years because you have to work extra hours to save up money for your retirement. Really?

In fact, if we were to look at the author as a personal example, we should build a thriving information empire, getting other people to buy into our ideas, and skip the minimum wage part time work altogether. I pick that up reading between the lines of his teachings. Although I've never heard him say such a thing publicly. Just remember this euphemism when you're working all those hours... do as I say, not as I do.

Third:
How many of the people he speaks with on his radio program, have incomes over $50k? Most. How realistic is it, to expect to put his program in place, when your income is barely enough to meet your bills, even when your only debt is a mortgage? I have the answer for you... It's not! Maybe, if you had an under $75k mortgage, like some of the extreme examples in his books. Again, this amount of mortgage is NOT the norm. Sure, all of his examples have home mortgages under $75k, but I've rarely met a person with this little of a mortgage amount. Even our starter home, which we bought 11 years ago, wasn't even under $120k.

I totally agree with his concept of paying off your mortgage. For years now, this has been our dream. Imagine, what your life would be like without a mortgage payment every month. Imagine how much you could save, buy, splurge, donate, or use for fun. Can you see it? This is a worthwhile goal. However, none of his examples or scenarios make it half-as-easy as he makes it seem. And, mostly, it's because of the high dollar mortgages that people find themselves in now.

I guess it's the fact that the author has such a huge following that has me so bewildered. In fact, I am hesitant to publish this article because of the strong opinions people have about his system.

The thing is... he gives dreams, hopes, and ideas to people who have absolutely NO WAY of actually achieving everything he says you can. And, it is in no way feasible to match the examples he is using to make his claims.

The thing is... he is portraying a debt-free lifestyle that is rarely achievable as quickly or as easily as he makes it seem. And the accomplishment of that dream is much harder than the examples and ideas he shares. Most importantly, he is SELLING an illusion of happiness, worry-free lifestyle to millions of people who will have no way to fully achieve the picture he is painting. And he is making MILLIONS off of his product sales, all the while, he is telling you to go ahead and pick up that minimum wage part time job.

In his perfect scenario, a family who is out of most consumer debt and has saved up about 6 months of expenses, will also be in this position:
  • Saving 15% per month on retirement
  • Saving some amount per month for your kid's education
  • Giving 10% to a charity
  • Paying down extra on your mortgage each month
  • And still having enough to match all your living expenses, and to continue to live debt free.

I 'am' that scenario. And I can assure you, we are not in a position to do this. We certainly aren't worry free, about our futures, about our jobs, about our home, about our family, or about just about anything. For him to state it so boldly is annoying. And for other people to follow him hook, line, and sinker is also annoying.

Finally:
Now that we've pushed into a couple of big issues I have with the Total Money Makeover system, I want to get into a HUGE misconception that I believe the author spreads with his program.

I call this, the Total Money Hangover.
Having been out of consumer debt for awhile, the light at the end of the 'debt free' tunnel isn't as bright as I thought it would be. We don't have large amounts of money in any of our accounts, and we still struggle WAY more than he says you will.
Just my experience.

I do agree with the debt free lifestyle, or else I wouldn't be living it. However, living this way is NOT all peaches and cream, as the author would have us believe. For the most part - it is an uneventful, and still stressful, way of life. And, imagine, not having anything fun to look forward to in your near future because you're sticking away every extra cent you have to save up for your retirement. And who knows, by the time you get to retirement age, they might tack on another 5 years to when you can actually retire. You might not even make it that long? Who knows?


Ok... rant is over. For now anyhow. Let me know what you think, and how much you despise me now for saying all this?

Al

Thursday

Great sales at Publix this week

Wow, what a great week for sales this week!
Let me get right to it. The total before sales and coupons would have been $174.36. After sales and coupons I paid $6.01 out of pocket. That is a total saving of 97%! And I got a ton! In addition to the coupons listed below, I also used 2 Winn Dixie store coupons for $5.00 off $30.00 purchase. So that took off $10.00 right from the start! Great way to start I'd say!
Here it all is...

20- canned Green Giant Veggies. BOGO $1.29 I used Publix store coupons for $1.00 off 4 and a $5.00 off 20. Making them .14 each
20- cans Progresso Black beans .66 I used Publix store coupon for $1.00 off 4 and a $5.00 off 20 making them .16 each
16- cans Tomato sauce .33 each I used manufactures coupons for .45 off 3, Publix store coupons for $5.00 20. See below.
4- Frozen Green giant veggies. $1.00 used manufactures coupons for .50 off each and this finished the 20 things needed for the Publix store coupon of $5.00 off 20. Making it .48 for all the frozen veggies and canned tomato sauce.
8- Wishbone salad dressings $2.89 BOGO I used Target store coupons for $1.50 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 2 Making them .19 each.

2- Lays Chips $3.99 BOGO No coupons used making them 1.99 each

6- Buitoni Pasta $2.19 BOGO I used a manufactures coupons for $1.00 making them .10 each

8- Sargento Shredded cheese. $2.00 I used Publix store coupons for $1.50 off 1 and manufactures coupons for .50 off 2 making them .25 each

3- Kashi cereals $2.50 I used manufactures coupons for $2.00 off 1 and $1.00 off 1 making them .83 each

1- bunch bananas $1.44. I used a manufactures coupon for $3.00 off fruit when you buy 3 Kashi cereals making them FREE with $1.56 overage!

1- bag broccoli $1.00 No coupons used for this

4- Graham Crackers $3.99 BOGO I used a Target store coupon for $1.00 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $1.00 off 2 making them .99 each

4- Scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner $2.00 I used Publix store coupon for $2.00 off 2 and manufactures coupons for $2.00 off one making them FREE with a total OVERAGE of $2.00
That is 97 items for only $6.01. Or to put it another way 6 cents for each item I purchased!
These sales are so good I may have to take some more time to look and see what else I can come up with. But I don't think I did too bad for this weeks grocery budget!

Saturday

Custom made Nintendo DS Decals and Decorations

This last holiday season, Chris was able to pull a monster victory on our Christmas shopping budget.

As many of you know, she has been part of the Swagbucks website, which is a way to get extra money while surfing and browsing the web. Throughout 2010, she was able to gather up $175 in Amazon gift cards from her membership at Swagbucks. That money, coupled with some AMAZING Amazon deals, allowed us to get the girls each Nintendo DSi XL's as Christmas gifts. Essentially, we paid about $90 out of pocket, for both of the game systems. Talk about AWESOME savings!

We ended up buying the same colored game system for each girl. So they had the exact same matching systems.

When the girls finally picked themselves up off the floor, on Christmas, they decided that they each wanted to make their games look unique and cool. We did pick up different DSi cases for each girl, but they wanted to add their own personalities to their consoles.

Instead of going out and buying the regular skins from the store, Christy came up with an idea of creating our own custom Nintendo DSi Decals.

Christy used to be an avid scrapbooker, back in the hysteria days of scrapbooking. During that time, she had amassed an amazing collection of rub-ons. Essentially, this is a product similar to a sticker, which you can rub onto virtually any surface, and it will stick to that surface. Almost like a temporary tattoo. These 'rub-ons', as they are called, are primarily sold to people in the scrapbooking market. The coolest thing about using rub-ons, is that you can mix and match different designs and patterns to make your own look for your console.

With a steady hand, and a little bit of creative liberty, you can create some really cool Nintendo DSi decals for your system. Take a look at what the girls came up with in the process of putting their rub-ons on their games.

  1. First of all, we started off with the basic game system console. Both of ours were the same color, so we had do something to give each one a unique look


  2. Next, the girls went through Chris' huge collection of rub-ons, searching for just the right design to match what they wanted their game to look like. This is not an easy decision, by any stretch of the imagination.




  3. After you pick your images, you have to carefully lay the designs out on your game. **Important note** Don't push down on the designs until you have them exactly where you want them. Rub-ons are known to come off and stick to surfaces even before you want them to.
  4. After you have carefully chosen the layout for your designs, just how you want them, go ahead and thoroughly rub the designs onto the game. You will need to do each piece separately, building up your custom decal as you go along.


  5. After you've gone through all the work of putting your own design on your game, now you can admire all of your creative ideas in your one-of-a-kind, custom Nintendo DS decal.





And as a follow-up comment on using these rub-ons for your games, the girls still have their designs on their consoles - and they've been on there for about a month and a half. Admittedly, they are getting a little tattered, but the cool thing is... they'll be able to re-do another custom design when these ones get so worn down that they want to change them. So, unlike adding paint or a permanent tattoo, they get to change their custom look whenever they want, and create a completely new look. If your kids are looking for a way to customize their games, this is a great way to get customer Nintendo DS decals.
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