Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Frugalicious Fail

So, if you have been reading my blog  you might notice that I like poking fun at my hubby.  I think after 11 years together he expects it and is ok with it, but either way I wanted to share this little antecdote from last night.

I should start with this post having absolutely nothing to do with saving money and has everything to do with my silly husband Paul!  I should have made him write this post. 

Anyways, Paul strots in yesterday from his trip to the dry cleaner hands me the mail and kisses me hello.  Nothing strange about this welcome yet.  Then I spot behind his super wrinkle free shirts which were dry cleaned at $2 each (Fail #1), that his old khaki paint ridden shorts are hanging very neatly and pressed on a dry cleaning hanger! So I ask him whats up and he says oh the button popped off (go to the gym Paul), so I had them fix the button and DRY CLEAN MY SHORTS!  Who sends their old cotton shorts to get dry cleaned?  I really wonder what the dry cleaners thought when he brought those in.

Anyways, since he's my best friend, is the source for my funny non money saving stories and I love him more than yesterday and less than tomorrow, Paul is still mine for keeps!

Any one else with money fails feel to share?
Monday, August 16, 2010

St. Lucia Roundup

St. Lucia was awesome!  I wish we could go back.  We spent 8 days 7 nights on the beautiful island and honestly the best part about the trip was the culture.  People in DC really are not very nice comparatively.  Our taxi driver Humberg was the coolest; he took us down the Petit Piton to go to the volcano, mineral baths, botanical gardens and hot and cold waterfalls. 

We thought he was going to just drop us off, but he ended up deciding to be our fly by the seat of his pants tour guide!  He knew everyone on the island and gave us a chance to see and feel things all the other tourists couldn't (lucky me).  He got us some awesome mangoes by having this guy climb a tree right outside of the waterfalls.  Then when I told him later that it had been the best mango I'd ever had, he said wait until you taste a pineapple from my house.  He actually came back the next day to visit and bring me the world's best pineapple (sweet and straight from the heart).  

Think hard about when was the last time some taxi driver in DC said, I'll meet you back here with a "xyz" from my yard and you didn't want to call the cops or fox 5 to investigate this psycho.  Seriously, St. Lucians are the nicest people, I'd love to bring a whole lot of them back to the DC to teach everyone how simple acts of kindness are the greatest beauty in the world.  I'm thinking my old boss from Intersections could use a good 2 months of their instruction.

Another fav was the awesomeness of the first leg of our trip being free!  As I said in an earlier post all you have to do is ask; this concept also goes for signing up for things (within reason..only legitimate places please).  One of my fav websites the Nest was giving away a trip for two to St. Lucia if you made a webpage and entered their contest.  I did, and they liked mine the most and voila 3 free nights at the windjammer hotel in a 1 bedroom luxury villa with a plunge pool!

The funniest part is those who know me well know I'm UBER competitive.  I mean so much so that when I put my name in for this contest I was thinking to myself no other bitches are winning this, I've got this.  Then I gave myself a pat on the back for a job well done on the webpage.  The Windjammer reminded me of Santorini Greece.  It is all these spanish style villas built up a huge cliff.  It was beautiful.  Our 1 bedroom villa was amazing with ocean views from the two level deck that had an infinity plunge pool that appeared as if you could touch the ocean.  The food was great and we did some snorking excursions and went on a great "booze cruise" aka a catamaran boat loaded with a bunch of newlyweds, Rum Punch and local Piton beer (very good if you ever go).

The second 1/2 of our trip we stayed at the Jalousie Plantation. We did this so we could see the southern and northern end of the island.  It was nice to have done this but if you really just want to relax, stay in one place.  Getting from one place to the other freaking sucks in St. Lucia because it cost up the wazoo for anything that uses gas and since you are on a mountainous island you can only go 30 mph around the mountain over and over again until you finally get to your destination.  Best way to travel there is by boat, although the taxi views are amazing too. 

At the Jalousie, we did a lot of eating, drinking and snorkeling (we bought a waterproof cover for our camera).  Our first dinner there the hotel was trying out this new set 4 course dinner for $75 for both of us.  It was so good and we were so stuffed.  We spent friday at a local fish fry in Anse Le Raye where Paul karaoked like the cool white boy he is, Humberg our taxi driver looked on with a grin and of course the rest of the locals loved him too.  While I recoved from our street party the next morning, I had a fresh coconut chopped for me right on the beach, that was pretty cool.  I didn't think the milk was that good, so the hotel beach waitress said it's better with local rum.  Promptly there after the red flag for service went up and I had made myself a little pina colada!  Are you guys catching a drinking trend here?  I seriously can't believe I got to live this life for a week (I should have shot my pinky out like a snot face while drinking my coconut). 

Snorkeling on the base of the Pitons was the best, we saw so much and it was so cool to get up off your beach chair and walk right over to this 3,000 ft mountain.  We even got to try scuba diving for free which was awesome.  I thought my ear drums might break at first but then I learned how to equalize and I was all set. 

All in all it was amazing.  Both hotels were great and we got a great deal (free and then a two bedroom house with plunge pool for $170 a night).  If you are in for an adventurous vacation, head to St. Lucia.  If you don't like lots of rain, don't do what we did and go during rainy season.  It would pour for 5 min and then be sunny again.  We had some rainbows and laughs because rain is really not that bad when it comes when you are on vacation, hot and happen to be sipping a pina colada and are too comfy and lazy to take the 4 steps to the ocean to cool off...

Hope you enjoyed the pics!  Any suggestions on our next trip?
Saturday, August 14, 2010

My Yard Sale Find

I love yard sales.  Unfortunately though for a reason I don't know, I don't go very often.  When I was little my Mom and I used to go all the time.  Paul works most Saturday Mornings so normally that is when I clean the house and relax.  By the time we head out to do errands or see friends on Saturday all the yard sales are over.

I was pretty excited when on our way back from church on Sunday, there was a yard sale on a Sunday!  I as able to convince Paul to make a pitstop and after a few minutes of looking around junk, I found this gem! 

There was no price listed so I asked the lady if I could have it for a $1.  She told me $3 and finally we landed on $2.I was originally going to give it to Paul's Mom who LOVES bird houses, but after the car ride home I had decided it was too cute to not display on our new tree. 

What are your favorite yard sale finds?
Thursday, August 12, 2010

Free VS Undies

I love my free undies coupons from Victoria's Secret.  Paul and I get them at least once a month.  I don't know how we are so blessed with this good fortune, but let's just say it's been a long time since I actually had to pay for underwear (tmi, I know).  The funniest part is that they send these coupons to Paul all the time.  For his birthday they send him a free pair and a free $10.  He insists upon going to choose these freebies himself since they come in his name (he's funny like that).

Anyways today was the funniest conversation with the clerk at the register.  So I'm checking out with my free coupon, Paul has already checked out with his.  The clerk keeps asking me if I'm sure I don't want to try their new incredible bra.  I first tell him, I don't want to because they don't really work for bigger girls.  He didn't understand, so I had to lay it out more clearly for him: "they don't work if you have big boobs".  I thought that would have been enough for me to check out in peace, but then he starts in with how this bra is different and how it has padding here and the straps do this and that and you can't even feel it, "it's like it is invisible" were his exact words.  Finally, I'm like really I'm ok, but well do you have first hand experience with this bra or what?  I felt bad for embarrassing the poor kid, but someone had to stop him.  I look over and Paul is just about to bust out laughing, because honestly why is this dude telling me and showing me on his chest how this bra will fit. 

So, yes that was my Thursday night.  One more reason I love my freebie coupons for VS, I get to drag Paul to the mall with me, it's wonderful torture!
Monday, August 9, 2010

Ask and you shall receive

Do you ever remember hearing "no question is a stupid question"?  Well, I'm a firm believer of that statement because sometimes it is better to ask a question then to look stupid because you didn't know later.  I've taken this school house catch phrase one step further and have no fear in asking for a discount.  Honestly, the worst they can say is no and then you are no where different than when you started off, so why not?

My theory best presented itself when we bought our new fridge last year.  Paul could tell you lots of stories where I've embarrassed him because I asked a question; this time though, he was so happy when I asked this one!  Since the day we moved in, we had loathed the fridge that came with our house.  It was a builders grade side by side that had gone through the previous 3 owners; it fit approximately 2 items in the freezer and had to get fixed by GE several times.  As I said in our earlier post, we always buy in bulk, so freezer space is of the utmost importance and a working freezer even more so.  Here is a picture of the old fridge:

So needless to say, we'd been on the hunt for a new fridge for close to three years.  We'd been wanting a french door freezer, but unable to stomach the 2-3k price tag held off until one day on a window shopping extravaganza at the Lowes in Chantilly we came upon this beauty, marked down from $2,700 to $1,500.

I noticed a scratch on the bottom side of the door and asked the clerk if he could mark it down some more.  He said sure how about $1,200 and I said, well I can take it for $1,100 and then off we went skipping to the register hand in hand with big smiles plastered on (I know we are so cute aww).  Come to find out they'd later bring it down to $750 because of a whole series of sattirical events which included pressing buttons, spoiled food and a lot of stairs....  I then sold my old side by side for $250 instead of letting lowes haul a perfectly good fridge away to a landfill.  So we were, the proud owners of my brand spanking new $3,000 fridge for $500!  Everyday when I open my fridge (we call her Sammy), or get some nice cold filtered water (something impossible on our old fridge), I'm happy I asked for a discount because of a stratch a little marker eradicated once we got home.

Now on to the Lowes in Chantilly, if you live in VA and need something get there now!  They have a much better selection than the HD right down the street from us.  Plus they know what the are talking about, want to help you and always have HUGE clearance sections all over the store.  My friend Kari bought a beautiful bath vanity with a small crack in the granite top for $45 (origianl price with attached faucet and glass bowal well over $500).  We ended up buying a washer and dryer from them a few months ago for almost 65% off!  They are beautiful glittery blue Sammys that actually make me happy to do laundry.

I also got most of our summer flowers from them on clearance.  Big wave petunias for .45 cents!  Yes, .45 cents, they are normally $4!  I also got a whole tray of geraniums 18 for $5.  Costco sold them 10 for $25 and honestly my tip is if you have trouble watering, don't think fancy flowers from a nursery are going to do any better.  Expensive flowers and clearance flowers both die if you don't water them (go back to 9th grade bio and remember photosynthesis, it will help you have a green thumb).

Now go ask away!

Shop Around

So I realize I might be in the minority here, but it really pays to shop around and not agree to your first quoted price.  I learned this first hand when planning our wedding in 2004.  With so many of my friends now getting married, I keep trying to convey this message all why wondering why are weddings so expensive again (5-8 hours of your life, dont' forget that)?!

After our wedding, our first major inquiry was for granite in our condo back in 2005 (sad fact..still no granite for me and I'm in my 2nd house).  My first and highest granite quote in our new house was from Costco at $6,500 and our cheapest but surprisingly highest quality was from PMG at $2,500.  Both were for grade 1 granite fully installed for 65 sq ft, what a HUGE price difference.  I met with four other vendors who all fell somewhere in between.  Costco's quote threw me for a loop because they are never that much more than their competitors and I started thinking I'd never have granite.  When we went to have our carpet redone, I had crazy quotes from them as well (8k for the same quality as carpet city's 2k quote).

One of the projects we waited the longest to tackle was our small postage stamp sized front yard.

I had wanted stacked stone in our front since we moved in the house in 2006.  It was in March 2010 when we finally bit the bullet and hired someone.  The back to back hemorrhaging of snow in DC helped solidify our plans because it broke many of the branches on our horribly annoying tree. 
This stupid tree shed dime sized leaves for months, almost until it was time for the new leaves to come out in the spring.  Imagine racking that up year after year?!  From the front of the house, the tree looked fine, but from inside, it looked like a cake with a big slice taken out of it!  I was overjoyed because it meant the tree had met D-Day.

Note the leaves still on the tree!

Normally this endeavor would have been a DIY project, but after getting the quotes in, I realized the opportunity cost of not having to fight with Paul about how he may or may not be doing something wrong and vice versa for 12-18 hours was probably well worth it.  If you haven't seen us doing DIY before, get a soda and some popcorn and be ready for some good old American family entertainment.

Our landscape project started with a fun Sunday trip to the Dulles Expo Home Show (I met vendors for granite there too).  The highlight for me was I got to meet the cutest of hosts on HGTV's curb appeal John Gidding and we got to get at least 8 quotes right on the spot for granite and the landscaping design.

After the show, we met with small sized nurseries, private landscape designers and big nurseries like meadow farms.  Economies of scale came into play here and quotes ranged from 2k to what we chose $336!

We choose Joe Hudgins of Meadow Farms Nursery.  He was amazing to work with as he is a really friendly man with an old country charm.  He itemized everything on his quote and allowed me to pick and choose which of the services and products he would render.  His quote was originally high ($1,500) but as we decided which items we could DIY, we had shaved off almost $1,200.  We ended up taking the tree out ourselves; saving us $300, provided our own soil and mulch, surprisingly saving close to $300.  They were going to charge us $9 a bag for mulch and top soil, we paid $3 a bag for mulch and .98 c for top soil at Home Depot.  Getting all the home was a B but well worth the savings.  We also went to the nursery ourselves and picked out our tree saving us $300 and chose to plant it ourselves which saved another $150.  The men from the nursery showed up on a glorious May afternoon and in a matter of two hours were done with our beautiful retaining wall.  I planted three peonies and my clearance petunias, laid some mulch and voila.

My .45 cent petunias!

By 7 pm I was off to dinner with our friends no back pain and most importantly a happy, not cranky husband in tow.  Had Paul and I done this ourselves, buying the stone would have probably cost about $200 and it would have taken us a full weekend, so as I said earlier opportunity cost, opportunity cost.
Thursday, August 5, 2010

Stuffy Nose? Freebie Fix!

So from one of my favorite websites, The nest, I found a link for a free Neti Pot

You have to become a fan of them on facebook, but honestly, I'm a fan anyway.  For the longest time I never had allergies.  Now that I've gotten older, I have them the worst in the summer.  This baby helps a lot.  I really, really hate taking pills, so I'd rather have something as organic as salt water running through me than who nows what is the "magic" zyrtec pills.

Hopefully you guys can jump on board this ancient trend, the idea of a nasal rinse has been around for hundreds of years, with orgins in India.  Albeit totally gross, sweet relief convinced me.  I'm not going to go into what the spout looks like, I mean seriously?

Here is some history courtesy of wikepedia.
Wednesday, August 4, 2010


So, first let me start with saying I'm a bad blogger.  I had a feeling that would happen...but 2 months since my last post, I define bad blogger.

So Splits, what the heck does that mean.  It's my favorite coined term for how to enjoy eating out on the cheap.  I strong armed Paul into this along time ago.  My coworkers it took a bit longer.  I like to split things in large quantities.  Starbucks for example is the best split because it is for me a splurge purchase (I mean seriously who really "needs" a $5 cup of coffee).  What I've been doing for over 10 years now is getting a venti and having them "split" it into two cups.  That way you get two talls for $5 instead of 1 tall for almost $4.  It's a win win for both parties as long as you can agree on what you want and the other person isn't easily embarrased.

Sometimes as was the case today, the starbucks barista gives you the stink eye and tries to intimidate you, but don't let them.  I decided to blog today because the Barista was so ridiculous this morning.  I asked him for a venti caramel light frap split into two cups.  He gave me a look and asked why I didn't just get to talls and I said with a grin on my face (I mean, who can resist my big, big smile), because it was cheaper.  I wanted to insert a DUH (1990 Stephanie from Full House style) after, but I think he was just trying to see if I was going to own up and tell him I was cheap.  Not surprisingly, I had no problem doing so.

I felt like being fat today and since I left my lunch in the car, my coworker Humera and I decided time for another split.  We headed to Chipotle and split a chicken burrito bowl.  For 6 bucks, the both of ate and were stuffed!I'm not one to put something away for later, so splitting also helps my ass not be 10x bigger than necessary (I inherited as my Aunt says the "Willcher Can" that has been passed down to all the women in our family for several generations). 

So morale of the story, don't be embarrassed, ask for an extra cup or plate and you and your friend can be fat and happy for 1/2 the price!  Have fun!