Thursday, August 28, 2014

Coupon Miss, then Coupon Hit


After a picturesque hour and a half of outdoor play at Spring Harbor Beach and Playground, the kids and I piled into the Honda and headed to Windsor.  As the skies clouded over, we were happy to have a coupon for 2 for 1 entry at Bouncy Town.  We'd been there last summer, and it left an impression.  We pulled up and bam -- reality hit me.  Before driving this far, relying on a coupon, make sure the place is still in business.
Deflated literally and figuratively, we switched to plan B.  I agreed to take the kids to the indoor playland at McDonalds.  Then the breaks start to squeal.  Louder than they had been, this Mama realized they needed attention ASAP.  One quick call to our repair shop, and we were off and running.  Within minutes of arrival we learned the front breaks were out, and for $350 and 1.5 hours wait, the car would be as good as new.

What to do?  Thankfully I had grabbed coupons off the counter before leaving for our day of adventure.  Tucked inside was 20% off a meal at Ihop, a place the kids had never been to before.  It was a five minute walk from the repair shop, and with borrowed umbrella in hand we set off from Plan C for the day.

We took the back way back to the repair shop, and spent another 45 minutes burning off the Ihop goodies at a local park.  My mission to spend time with kids, mainly outdoors, and burn off some kiddo energy was complete.

Frugal lessons of the day: 1) travel with your coupon stash, just in case a change of plans are needed; and 2) call ahead before driving 20 minutes or more to a location -- businesses come and go, do not waste time, gas and money until you know the place is still operational.

Playground memories in the making.  Better than any indoor bounce town in this Frugal Mama's opinion.

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Farmers' Market Frugal


Wednesday, the day of the local market at my office.  There was no office for me, I took the day off from legal matters.  My little ones have their last days as a Buckaroo and Wizard at their preschool and will be leaving school early today for a meet and greet at our son's elementary school.  During their time at the school, I tended to errands.  They will be with me at home until school starts next Tuesday -- one can cross a lot off a to-do list when one does not have a 6 and 4 year old along for the ride.  Since my office is between home and the school, it was market day as usual.  Two bags full, less than $20 spent.

From this selection will emerge a frugal dinner for tonight.  Scrambled eggs (not from the market), cream of cauliflower soup and zucchini bread.  Fresh, tasty, and frugal.

Monday, August 25, 2014

Ikea and Me: Frugal, and then real Frugal....

It was Sunday Dinner, and I mentioned I might want input on doing some work in the kitchen.  Instantly the party came to life.  Ideas, suggestions, colors, products I'd never heard off -- they all came flying at me. Knowing I am frugal, they said "hold on, work in a kitchen is always one of the two places to invest, the other is a bathroom."

Invest?  What are we talking about here?  My idea was to paint some walls, put up a board of the Paris skyline, and hang a drawing I "won" at a silent auction of a rooster.

Oh, $20,000 maybe $30,000.  You'll need floors, new cupboards, new appliances, maybe knock down a wall.

At this point you could have knocked me down with a feather.  And my husband knew it, but kept silted. He'd have no problem with this expenditure, and would agree with Sunday Villagers, kitchens are the best place to spend remodel dollars.  But he knows me, and knows me well.  The more they gave me ideas, the more I retreated.  That is just way too much money!

When I balked they offered up Ikea as an alternative.  Noting they were all seated, I said to brace yourself, I have never been to Ikea.  Over my life I have ordered fewer than 5 things from the catalog.

They were silent for a minute, and then said "find an accent pillow, work from there with the colors and style."

There is frugal.  That means you do a lot yourself, you buy smart, you turn trash into treasures, and you love Ikea.  Sunday Villagers are this type of frugal.  What they can do with discarded furniture amazes me -- I love it.  But, it isn't my kind of frugal.

No, I'm a bit more extreme.  Instead of shopping smart, I just do not shop for the most part.  I'd rather do without and leave the money in my investment account.  I find comfort in access to cash, just in case.  Most likely a byproduct of being raised by parents who hovered at the poverty line.  High school educations, manual labor jobs, with the persistent threat of evaporating - that feeling is hard to wash away from ones reptilian brain.  Not spending money as a young person allowed me to squirrel away money and be the first in my family to go to college.  And I kept on going, earning a Masters and then law degree.  Graduation brought with it great opportunities, a lot of letters after my name, and $97,000 in student debt.  And not spending money was a key feature in erasing that debt.

Retired long ago, the debit is gone.  The savings have grown, but I'd rather see them increase than diver $30,000 into a kitchen that functions just fine.  So for now, talk of $30,000 kitchen refresher is set aside.  I think I'll just give the one I have a good cleaning.  It has all I need -- fridge, stove, sink, storage, and my little family seated at the table, together.

Our fridge -- it keeps items cool, displays preschool art.  What more does one need?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Peck's in Spring Green, Wisconsin

We live in Wisconsin, we are surrounded by corn.  But this past Monday we made corn an adventure.  One of our son's favorite foods, it was essential for his birthday dinner.  No market or store would do, we used our day off from work/school to drive to Peck's Market just outside of Spring Green.  We bought 6 ears of corn and some melon.  Then we enjoyed the grounds, all for donation prices.

Whether you have kids or are a kid at heart, consider the drive to this lovely spot.  Pick up local foods and enjoy the randomness of this roadside attraction.

Bouncing in an inflatable pumpkin for those 12 and under:


Watch for the sign and American flag.

No fee, just donations.  There are deer, a bison, donkey, goats and countless birds.

The only Angry Bird our kids know - this one got outside it's coop and wanted back in, and us away!

My personal favorite, the goats. Twenty-five cents for a handful of corn.

And playground equipment to burn off yet more energy!

Frugal -- why pay for pricey parks and zoos when you can go to Pecks!

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Another Frugal Birthday at Aldo Leopold Nature Center

Local to Madison and have children and a desire to be frugal?  If yes, consider holding your next child birthday party at the Aldo Leopold Nature Center in Monona, Wisconsin.  Earlier I posted about the one we threw for our daughter when she turned 4.  Over the weekend we held another as our son turned 6.

ALNC has about ten different themed parties to select from.  The $160 fee includes: room, instructor for 2 hours, take-aways (i.e. party favors), plates, cups, utensils, and a breathtaking setting.  ALNC allows you to bring in your own food; healthy and frugal is a delightful change to the pizza and ice cream so commonly found at more mainstream locations.  In July our daughter celebrated with Ferries and Gnomes.  Our son opted for Space Exploration, and we were all awed by the programming.

Here are a few pictures.  And even if wee ones are not in your life, consider the center for other life celebrations or work retreats.  It is a gem for the local area!

The sphere of wonder!

Planet talk in the party room.

Dials of the sky -- the take away.

Powerful memories from July; 
looking for the ferry and gnome nests they made at our younger one's party.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Home Hair Cut Success Secret.....Low Expectations

Dusk was settling over the backyard.  From our perch on the back deck, nestled among the fifty plus year old pine, we had a clear view of "our boy".  His boundless energy haulted, fussing with his hair in a corner of the yard, a worried and annoyed expression on his face, and then the call out "Mama????"

Our son.  Rooster is his nickname because since even before his birth six years ago, he has had me up with the sun or even before its rise.  Yet Rooster's mannerisms are much more akin to a 1 year old lab.  A body longer than he has been able to get used to, prone to knocking things over.  Bounding into my lap without a sense of just how big he is and how small I am becoming.  Unable to pass a large stick without picking it up. An endless ball of energy, until the backyard burs got on his shirt and in his hair.  That stopped him in his tracks and sent him whimpering into my arms.  Our daughter, who also was frolicking in the backyard, was bur free.  Siblings, yet so different.

My husband and I attempted to pull out the burs.  Oh so many, and it became clear, it was haircut time.  I had been thinking that I'd take him to a salon for a proper cut in preparation for kindergarten.  Change of plan, scissors were needed to get out the burs.  Home hair cut time it was.

We've been doing this for a few years now.  The key to our happiness with home cuts does not lie in technique or tools.  No, it is low expectations.  I have no allusion that he'll emerge with the same cut as though we were at a salon.  I've been trained to write wills and administer probate, not cut hair.  But, I can snip and trim and have a modestly respectable cut.  Give up a desire for a cover photo child, cut their hair, and you'll save money and time.  With those savings, we enjoyed a lazy summer night in the backyard.  That is the upside of a frugal life.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Don't Fall for "Free" Offers

Sometime a year or so ago I saw a line of people in downtown Madison.  Lines there are not unusual, however, this one was.....everyone person was holding or carrying some version of a coffee pot.  Turns out the line was for "free" Keurig pots.  Give us your old one, we'll give you a new one, and the hope was that people would focus on the free expensive pot and not the logical question of how much more expensive those little cups of coffee are compared to bulk coffee.  Now if you drink a cup here and there, this may not be a big difference in cost, but for our house it is.  We drink pots, not cups.

So it is no surprise to me to see a headline announcing the price spike of the cups, going up 9 percent.  Sure all coffee prices are going up, but the cups offer less selection in variety. And we all now bulk is usually more cost effective.

My point -- free is never usually free.  There is some cost, likely hidden.  Find it, analyze it, and then make a decision.

Life here has been frugal, but extremely hectic leaving little to no time to blog about frugal ways.  That should be changing, back to more time to post.  Thanks for sticking with me during quiet times!