MM’s Money

September 13, 2008

Generic Vs. Name-Brand?

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Saving — mmsmoney @ 12:00 pm
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I’m not the only one in the world who struggles with the choice between buying the generic and the store brand! I know there are also many others who never even make it a choice – “Coke, It’s the Real Thing” is firmly engrained in their consciousness. So I feel a little virtuous when I buy generic – although that should be the rule, not the exception. And it is the rule EXCEPT for the following:

  • Peanut Butter: have you tasted Jif? Is it not like heaven? How can you even compare store brand?
  • Charmin: my body is kinda sacred to me, and seriously – that store brand will not touch me. I mean it.
  • Light Bulbs: every store-brand CFC that I have bought has lasted less than 2 months. What is up with that? They are supposed to last a year! So we went back to GE/Westinghouse/Sylvania when it came time to replace these duds.
  • Charcoal: not that we buy a lot of it (well, compared to some, we do), but store brand is just harder to light & manage the fire
  • Shampoo: both DH and I have difficult to manage unruly wave & curl. So we buy the salon stuff and don’t struggle to manage. But I do wait for the buy-one-get-one, which halves our expenditure
  • Beer: I haven’t bought Beer Beer (remember the white cans with the UPI scan logo?) in years. We are a make-our-own or buy microbrew family
  • Toothpaste: I was a Crest Kid and am now a Crest Adult.
  • Gasoline: I will not purchase from no-name-brands or CITGO. Citgo for political reasons, no-names for watered down gas that caused an engine failure when I was in college
  • (confession. and I know you’ll be upset) Cigarettes: I know! I know! I’ll quit! I swear! Another post will detail how stupid and reckless this habit is, but I do and now you know and now you think I’m an idiot, and now I know that you know and that I know that you’re right! *ducking*. Again with the minor virtuousness, mine are a major retailed brand that often has the ‘keep them smoking’ buy-one-get-one promotions or major coupons, while DH smokes an ORGANIC brand that is like $2 more per pack and NEVER gets couponed or on sale or promotionally buy-one-get-one

But that’s about it. I might have left something off, but pretty much everything else is store-brand or not-major branded.

How about you?

September 10, 2008

BIG News And a Hurricane!

Filed under: DH,Lifestyle,Planning,Relationships — mmsmoney @ 5:49 am
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Big news – DH reconsidering his work situation + a chance conversation at a social event = NEW JOB. Having just started this blogging thing last week, I didn’t post anything about his resume-writing, interviewing, etc – especially since this all came together since Labor Day, but OMGoodness! And I didn’t want to get my hopes up, either.

He was talking to an old friend at a cookout, and she mentioned being overwhelmed at work – she had an empty job that no one had applied for in the 6 weeks the posting/requisition had been open. She works for a non-profit community agency that manages social support grant money from the Federal and State governments – including a brand new program area that supports green-building efforts in the lower income housing field. DH was/is fascinated by this burgeoning industry – green-construction – and they spoke for a long time about the new program and the job itself – serving as project manager/inspector for this new program. That was MONDAY 8 days ago (9/1/08)!

Tuesday (9/2/08) I fixed up his resume to highlight the associated work skills/qualifications and he emailed it to his contact. Wednesday (9/3/08) she called to set up the interview. Thursday (9/4/08) he interviewed. Friday (9/5/08) they checked his references and ran background checks. Monday…nothing. Yesterday (9/9/08) – HE GOT THE JOB. It’s definitely nowhere near the money he had been pulling in a few years ago, but it is a JOB. 8 to 5, Monday through Friday, they want him to start this upcoming Tuesday – the 16th. After consciously trying NOT to get excited/hopeful, this is an awesome and amazing change for our family.

Money. He’ll bring home roughly $2400 per month. $800 will go to daycare, right off the top. Now we have to budget the rest responsibly. We haven’t had the conversation, but certainly a large chunk of that will hopefully be going to pay down our debt at a rate I will be HAPPY to report month after month!

 So since this will be the first office environment in 8 years, he’s gonna have to buy some clothes.  That will be an investment not accounted for in this month’s budget, but it has to be done. This is a slacks and shirt office, no jeans/t’s/golf shirts – so I figure he can get by with khaki’s (3 or 4 pairs – NOT dry-clean-only) and roughly 5 to 8 shirts. He really does not have anything that will do – his previous jobs/contracts had been construction sites – where a t-shirt without holes/stains was fancy! We’re hitting Kohl’s Department Store (maybe one-step up from TJ Maxx and one-step down from Dillards) first for the basics…I’m thinking $250 for the slacks/shirts and a pair of shoes. Does that seem reasonable? If necessary, he can get by with his ‘nice’ boots if we can’t find any office shoes this weekend.

Then there’s Hurricane Ike swinging through the Gulf at us – projected to hit Corpus Christi Friday afternoon – putting storms at our door Friday night/Saturday morning. So maybe shopping should be done tomorrow evening, instead. Our landscaping sure could use the rain – but I hate to hear of damage/destruction from storms, so we’ll be praying it lands gently.

September 9, 2008

Another Non-Compromise for Quality

Filed under: Frugality,Lifestyle,Lil One,Uncategorized — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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or won’t compromise. Lil One was breastfed for 15 months. Oh, that was an awful day she rejected me and made me feel unnecessary to her continued existence! It was a horrible, no-good, rotten day (that’s a book title…Googling…Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst). Horrible To me, of course, she thought Cow’s Milk the best thing EVER. 

 “How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is to have a thankless child” – King Lear, Shakespeare.

So that all being said, it was a transition for me, but not her. I started out buying Horizon organic brand milk – at 2007 pricing, it was $4.50 a gallon compared to $2.89 for hormone-riddled store brand milk. And at the time, the store didn’t offer their own branded organic option.

Every week, I go to the farmers market – for produce, it’s the only stuff that’ll do – in season, local producers, no food miles involved. well, about 6 months ago a new vendor appeared – a DAIRY. Organic, local, fresh milk! at $5 a gallon. Wow, it was like crack or heroin or potato chips. We were all hooked. It had about 10% more butterfat content than the horizon and was sweeter and glorious. Even to me, who had been suffering through fat free milk in her coffee and cereal. Lil One gained about 6 pounds instantaneously, and was getting a lot of chub in her little legs and arms (as a breastfed baby, she was kinda lean and I had weight issues on her behalf, thinking she was underfed).

Then 6 mos ago, the dairy abruptly stopped coming – I was devastated and the whole family was upset with the store brand organic (which was available at that point -how could they pass up the market)! And the dairy was close to 150 miles away, so it wasn’t as if I could go there to get the milk! Well, it turned out that the farmer had purchased another dairy and was integrating it (equipment, etc) and its herd into his operations – including being the recipient of their wholesale licensing. That licensing allowed the dairy he had purchased to sell their milk to groceries for resale to the public. The farmer hadn’t had that license and was only able to sell to companies that would use his milk in production of another product – BlueBell Ice Cream for one – and direct to the public via farmers’ markets, local delivery, etc. So this was a great thing for the farmer, but we were needing that milk!

So three months ago, I was shopping in the fancy local grocery (an upscale version of the regular grocery) and they were selling 1/2 gallons on the shelf of that milk – for $5. A half-gallon. I was so torn. Our family LOVED that milk. But to pay double? I was not willing to do it and kept the knowledge (that it was available) from DH. Silly of me, but I made that choice. And then considered and reconsidered that decision. A few weeks after that, the farmer reappeared at our farmer’s market – with gallons for $6.25. A hike, but not surprising – in that same period, Horizon went from $4.99 to $5.99 and local organic from $3.99 to $4.50. So now we’re hooked again. And $0.26 is a very very small premium to pay (comparing to Horizon) for this stuff…it is that good. I usually buy 4 gallons at a time, every other week. Its high-butterfat and the pasteurization required of organic milks keeps it fresh for up to 3 weeks (meaning I’ve bought it and not opened it for up to 2 weeks, then had the gallon working in the fridge for up to a week after), so it really seems a frugal and conscientious purchase rather than an extravagance…

September 8, 2008

What I Love – Frugal Stuff or Not!

Filed under: DH,Frugality,Lifestyle,Lil One — mmsmoney @ 12:00 am
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  1. I love to cook. So eating out or grab-n-go foods are not appealing. This is a big money saver in our household. DH makes it very clear he’d much rather eat my cooking than spend money on not-as-good restaurant offerings. However, this does add to my stress sometimes – like this past month – when I’ve been so very busy at work that I haven’t been able to plan well and when coming home to jump right into cooking doesn’t really appeal. I grew up cooking for my big family (6 of us) so I’m used to cooking for a crowd. If I make dinner for 3 vs. 2 (adults we’re talking here – Lil One would rather eat cheerios and chicken nuggets than my cooking – I’m trying not to take it personally), then it doesn’t cost all that much more and I have leftovers for lunch. Not eating dinners out saves probably $80/month and leftovers saves $100/month.
  2. I love to read. Now that I’ve decided to stop buying books and use the dang library, I can indulge my reading without breaking the bank. I tracked my B&N/Amazon Books purchases last year and WHEW they were high. I’ve been on the not-buying boat since January and it’s save us … wait for it…$800 so far this year. Yes, the library sometimes doesn’t have the immediate gratification of getting the latest releases first. And yes, I can’t love the book and reread it again and again (without checking it out again) like if I owned it, but really – $1200 a year on books is a lot.
  3. I love coffee. I drink at least 2 mugs (and real ones – 16 oz.) each day – one right when I get up and one for the commute to work. I will not sacrafice my shade-grown fair trade good stuff for some cheaper alternative. One – for the taste. Two – for the principle of the thing – buying organic, fair trade ensures living wages are paid to the farmers and that is something I believe in and will continue to support. Not to mention the negative ecological impacts of clear-cut coffee plantations (FOLGERS!). I try not to hug the trees too much, but in this case I would hug the coffee tree if I could. And really – that extra $2 per week is not gonna pay off $40K anytime soon, so we’ll stick with good coffee.
  4. I love Good Diapers bought with a Good Coupon. Well, actually I don’t love them, I just hate the alternative. Lil One’s rear-end requires the high-end purchase, so if I buy generic she is miserable with the rashes & chaffing. That then requires purchase of expensive baby diaper rash creams and so on. Yes, I’d save $10 per week on the diapers, but a tub of Dr. Smith’s would be $12 every other week, so there’s no real savings there (only $4 per week). And how could we put a price on discomfort for the Lil One? Buying the better diaper is the way to go for our family. That being said, we’re preparing to potty train this fall and these expenses could go away soon, adding $70/month back into our budget.
  5. I love good beer. No, not Miller Geniune Draft vs. Miller Lite. I mean flavorful, handcrafted beer with a significant hop profile. A balance of sweet malt to bitter hops. I mean a beer that follows the 4 ingredient rule of the Germans: Water, Barley, Hops and Yeast. NO rice, no wheat, no additives, no hops extract. So what is a family trying to cut our expenses – slashing and burning – going to do? DH learned how to make our own. Yes, we’re like moonshiners cookin’ up brew in the backyard. I may post another on this topic itself, as it is pretty interesting, but the short story: a 12-pack of Sierra Nevada Pale Ale is regularly $15 (grocery not discount store). And we could drink that within 2 days (no we’re not alcoholics, we just drink beer most days). That’s $3000/year on BEER after sales tax (8.25% in Texas). Or about $1.35 per beer.  So by buying the ingredients (and the equipment, which we got a great deal on) making it ourselves is less than $0.60 per serving – plus the purchase of the ingredients is TAX FREE because they are ingredients, not finished food products. So we don’t sacrafice our sophisticated beer palate AND we save upwards of $1500 per year! DH has perfected a California-style American Ale (Sierra Nevada Pale Ale Clone), a London-style Ale, an excellent porter – dark, balanced and yummy in the winter. These are our standard beers.

So what do you love that you think helps you save money or that you wouldn’t give up even for cost savings?

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