Cheap Thrill$ in Omaha

Frugal Living In The Heartland

No Spendsday Wednesday = Freebies for Me!

What’s better than a No Spendsday Wednesday?  One with FREE stuff!

This week I was able to meet with a friend (Hey, Jen!) for yummy coffeehouse drinks, and mine was free in exchange for some market feedback.

Then we headed over to the mall, where we each got some free Victoria’s Secret products.  Somehow, I am on their mailing list.  I have no idea how because I’ve never purchased there.  But about quarterly I get coupons for free undergarments.  The strangest thing is that my adult son is on their mailing list, too, with a feminized version of his name, and he swears he’s never purchased there.  Whatever!  Freebie for my friend, too.

Then, as we were walking through Sears on the way back to our cars, she began explaining how she “does deals” using Shop Your Way, getting needed items, accumulating points, using them combined with coupons on other items, etc.  Kind of like the Kohl’s or Walgreen’s deal scenarios.  So I saw a garment I wanted for my fall wardrobe (and had been shopping for), and I knew it would fit in the clothing budget.  Plus it was on sale!  And the SYW card intrigued me.

When I went to check out, I signed up for SYW, and they asked if I had a Sears card.  Nope, and I wasn’t planning on getting one.  Until she said that my purchase would be free, because there was an immediate cash off deal if I signed up.  Well, that was more difficult of a decision that you would think!  And my, “Okay!” probably made it seem like it wasn’t.  But it was.  We don’t need a Sears card.  I was prepared to pay cash.  I carry too many plastic rewards cards and other things in my wallet.  The open credit concerns me.  And yet, I walked away with a free sweater and a credit card that is going to be filed away in the basement.  DH was fine with the credit application, btw.

The one bad thing is that the weather was quite wicked, and my umbrella broke.  Just snapped.  And went right into the trash can at the mall.  No worries, we have other umbrellas, so I didn’t have to buy a new one, and the rain and hail stopped by the time we went out to our cars.

So how are your No Spendsday Wednesdays going? 

Leave a comment »

No Spendsday Wednesdays

Recently I’ve been implementing No Spendsday Wednesdays for myself.  I don’t buy anything, not at all, and it feels good.

It’s not a chore or a rule.  It’s just something I started doing one day when I woke up and thought, “I don’t need to spend anything today.”  It was kind of a natural fast, like “I’m not hungry,” and I realized I just did not need to spend for at least a day.

No bills.  No gas, no groceries, no “errands.”  Oh, I went out, and picked up things, and did things.  I just didn’t spend money, and I didn’t need to.

So I started thinking after this happened a few weeks in a row, that No Spendsday Wednesdays would be good self-discipline.  A spending Sabbath, kinda sorta but not really.  Again, it’s not a rule for me, just something to remind me that it’s not always about “the stuff.”  There are things larger than this physical world that matter more.

I’ve decided to use my midweek energy instead on using and maintaining our already existing blessings. Addressing one thing per week is not outrageous.  Hand washing my vehicle, for example, is a good use of my time and provides me with exercise and time to think about the thing.  Clearing out a closet and vacuuming away the dust does the same thing.

I’ll also be gleaning from my pantry, shelves and closets to give to others.  The things I find that we haven’t been using or eating can surely benefit someone else.

No Spendsday Wednesdays are my tap on the shoulder to keep my eyes on the prize, limit focusing on worldly things, and get priorities straight.  That last one is something we should do daily.  Even several times per day.

It’s just a little step, not a huge leap.  Care to join me?


Leave a comment »

Money Makeover — Unexpected Income!

We’ve certainly had our share of unexpected expenses over the past few months.  Thank goodness for the emergency fund!  Now I have some good news: unexpected income!  Yay!

It started with an in-law offering to help us out with travel expenses.  She wore down one of us.  She was very generous; her help paid for more than one third of our travel.

Our pal at the food service company paid our refund, which we really were expecting we would never see.

I was paid for some contract work I had also resigned to never being compensated.

DH received a cash bonus at work.  They sometimes just hand out $100 bills in the middle of the week, because they’re awesome like that.

When our monthly level payment amount to Omaha Puplic Power District (OPPD) was adjusted and lowered recently (more on that later), we took an almost $650 payback check.  Thankyouverymuch!

The total of the unexpected income is $2,620.  WOWSER!  God sure works in mysterious ways.

Not actually income, but it sure helps:  DH won a random drawing at work, and today he brought home a full bag of produce from Tomāto Tomäto!  The gift included a dozen eggs (I’m so thrilled about that!), broccoli, mixed greens, tomato, green pepper, jalapenos, other peppers, huge sweet potato, a cantaloupe, and a bag of apples, all farm fresh.  Omigosh, that’s all stuff we’ll eat (except maybe the hot peppers), and much of it was on my grocery list for this week.  Saving about $10 right there.  HAPPY, HAPPY!


So it’s all working out really well.

Comments Off on Money Makeover — Unexpected Income!

Money Makeover — When Tools Fail And Set-Aside Funds

So we were on track with updating Quicken, and my keeping closer tabs on the spending.  We were doing so well using the tools we have.  We were content with being able to recover from the recent unexpected expenses.

BAM!  Out goes the server.  With our Quicken data on it.

We have a fairly new hard drive, and DH is a wizard with due diligence data backup.  That’s not the issue.  We’ve successfully come back from worse crashes, actually.  I’m not sure what the suspect part is, but it has something to do with a mother of a board.  (And, oh, what a mother!)

There were issues in August with not being able to connect to or reboot the shared drive, so I figured this was probably coming.  Thank goodness I’d budgeted a little every month this year for computer whatnot, which never got used, except for ink.  We could handle it.

Instead of playing the piecemeal game, we decided to get a whole new tower, with new hard drive, motherboard, processors, memory, etc., and warranty.  The current Frankenputer is just no longer salvageable, not even for parts, probably, and certainly not the 1980s monitor.  And even though it was an emergency (really truly, because we can’t do Quicken, or backup our data, or have #2 print his homework), DH was able to find a really good deal online!  That almost never happens.

How thankful are we to have set-aside funds for the computer!?  Very thankful!  DH purchased it online for delivery to Best Buy for pick up in a couple of days.  He charged it to a credit card with a favorable billing cycle so we won’t have to actually pay for at least 40 days, and used his BB rewards card so he’ll rack up big points for this purchase.  We did a little footwork, but could not find the machine we needed locally.

Sure, I can pay the bills and enter the transactions later.  But that’s what we were doing before, and that’s why we got behind.  That’s why we didn’t know how close we were to the budget limits near the end of the month.  And one of us enters/scans receipts, then synchs up, rather than keying in, so that’s just waiting to happen, and won’t get recorded any other way.  *sigh*  We aren’t so new school that we can’t do old school….. are we?

Well, hopefully it will be only a few days until the computer arrives, is up and running, and we have access to the tools again.  My little jar of receipts, and my drawer of paid bills to file are doing their jobs in the meantime.  Still, it would be nice to not fall out of the habit recently re-established.

Good grief.  It’s always something trying to keep us from moving forward.  It has no real power here, though.  We’ll make it, and we’ll save even more before the year/month/week is out.

Comments Off on Money Makeover — When Tools Fail And Set-Aside Funds

Money Makeover — Collecting The Refund

Confession time.  This year, as you know, we have been reigning in excessive spending, making do, cutting costs, etc.  And I have been controlling the grocery spending by cooking from scratch, a habit I kinda sorta got out of a little bit.  Then we strayed.  Just for a moment, but we strayed.  Mea culpa.  We have recovered, but there is a story here with a lesson.

We have a friend who took a job at a local company called Natural Home Foods, aka Milk2You, aka NPM Management, Inc.  The service is home delivery foods, mostly frozen meats, with various packages available, as well as optional freezer maintenance, etc.  We were very careful, but after running the numbers and picking our jaws up off the floor, we thought about it more.  The rationale was that I would actually know the cost of (much of) our monthly food bill, and it would be delivered and stocked in the freezer and pantry for me.  That was my button right there.  I love to shop, and get deals — no, really, I do :) — but the hauling and lugging and stocking is not fun with my arthritis.

Yes [hanging head low], we signed up.  We made the required, refundable $95.00 deposit, and scheduled the delivery for the following Tuesday.  Mea maxima culpa.

Our friend said the sales force was not informed of the details of the “extended payment plan,” and someone would be contacting us about those details.  We had 72 hours (three business days) to rescind our contract.  There was a weekend (two non-business days) in there, too, which worked to our advantage.  That Monday, after 5 pm, we received a phone message from a guy at a bank, saying the man who we learned was the sales manager wanted him to contact us about our tax-deductible loan account.  Since the only tax-deductible loan accounts are home mortgages, that was not going to happen.  Oh, HECK no!

I called our friend to express concern and get clarification, but he informed me he couldn’t help because he had left the company.  He advised me whom to contact, immediately, and reminded me (in a caring, friend manner, but without being unprofessional in any way) that we had just a few hours left to rescind.  We decided, and I immediately contacted the appropriate person by phone message and email.

Mr. Fees of Natural Home Foods showed up at my door, unannounced, Tuesday morning.  I was unavailable, and did not answer the door, but heard the bell ring.  He called me later to tell me he had dropped by and to discuss our decision.  I told him several times I did not want to discuss it, just to cancel the contract, which we had done.  He wanted to know my reasons, which I did not want to discuss, and which he was not entitled to know.  We were abruptly disconnected after he made an exasperating noise.

Our deposit check had already been cashed at that point, and the money withdrawn from our account, so I requested a refund.  We realized this could be an expensive lesson, and drew our line in the sand where we would walk away.  After several more requests and promises to send the refund right away, I filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau mostly to make other consumers aware.  Mr. Fees or the company did not respond to the BBB on this claim.  He responded to me, several days after the BBB notified him, stating he would send it out that day.  He did not.

But!  I finally did receive the refund check (written several days after promised, and postmarked days after that).  The check has cleared.  And now this sad experience is over.

The lesson (many, really, but the main one for me):  When you get confident in your progress toward goals, don’t let the lure of convenience deter you.  We didn’t sign up because the sales guy was our friend; we signed up because it would be “easy” for me.  But when the bells and red flags appeared (after business hours on the last day, as intended, I’m  sure), reality slapped me in the face.

The best things to do in a case like this is admit to yourself that you messed up, find a way out, and pursue resolution.  Know when to cut your loss, and move on.

We’re now back on track with the budget process, and very glad our deposit was eventually refunded, three and a half months later.  That’s going to help very much with other recent expenses.

Be aware, people!  Just be aware.

Comments Off on Money Makeover — Collecting The Refund

Money Makeover — In Which We Totally Regroup

It’s time to “put our past in our behind,” as it were.  The first eight months of this year were enlightening, and a little frightening.  We learned some lessons, we swam some rough waters, and now it’s time to regroup.

The plan was to regroup in August.  But August and early September had bigger challenges for us, so I drastically cut spending here at home, found travel deals where I could, and kept a tight leash on every penny I could.  The money we spent for the family emergency travel went into a new category.  We hadn’t budgeted for this.  We had the emergency funds to cover it all, thankfully, but it wasn’t accounted for in the monthly budget.  So, a new category helped keep the numbers accurate, while not upsetting the budget process.  Our regrouping is now taking us to a monthly budget preview and review, rather than trying to stick to the annual estimated budget, which was planned out monthly in January.  Things always change; we have to be flexible.  I also think lightly touching base during the month will help.

So what I did was this:  I planned out our monthly spending at the end of August for September.  This monthly thing is more work, but more accurate.  Surprise!  There were some pending September items that I had expected in October, some expenses deferred from August, and the decision to forego dental work until springtime.  Additionally, we found out one vehicle has tire rot (yes, it’s a thing) so we had to budget for new ones this month.

We had to cut expenses everywhere else we could.  I reduced groceries to “super scrimp budget,” eliminated non-essentials, and voila!  We’re at a zero budget!  Sticking to it is the challenge for us this month.  We’ll be sitting down this weekend, since it’s the two-week mark, to make sure we’re on the same page.

I think a monthly review/preview sit-down will really help us.  And mid-month check-in will also help.  The challenge is going to be making the time to do it.  Evenings are pretty much out.  Weekends can be crazy nuts, with all kinds of cross-scheduling.  But, in order to make this work, we’re just going to have to make the time.

It was one foot in front of the other to get here.  Just a careful, methodical whittling away at the least necessary items, then finding alternatives that would work in lieu of spending money, repeat.  Yes, it’s work, but it has to be done.  This month’s budget took longer than I thought it would, considering it was just for one month.  But, I won’t have to revisit it as much, I don’t think, except to check real-time progress.

What helped with this month’s planning was finding supplies and materials I already have to get us through more than a month of cleaning, maintenance and planned repair projects.  And pantry/freezer inventory to prove we are abundantly blessed!  Currently I am under budget for the month’s groceries — woohoo!  And my income streams are bringing in a little more than originally budgeted.

So, the budget is doable!  And now every month we’ll be sitting down to review and preview.  That’s the plan.  Regrouping isn’t so bad, after all, if you do it in small steps.



Comments Off on Money Makeover — In Which We Totally Regroup

Never Use These Florists!

I post honest, non-sponsored reviews, and here’s one you’ll want to note.  Please don’t experience the angst I went through with these guys!


My father-in-law passed away recently.  There was a memorial (a well-packed church memorial), so among other arrangements, I ordered flowers to honor him.  Since he was a big deal veteran, I wanted “military flowers,” whatever they were, and I researched.  During this process of discovery, I came across

Their site seemed legit, and they had a wide variety of red, white and blue arrangements available.  Now, I am aware that businesses will use multiple names on the Internet to attract multiple search results and suck in the business.  But the floral business is (supposed to be) all about the customer service, anyway.  When I called, the phone was answered by From You Flowers, and I was okay with that.  The employee was kind and patient in taking the order.  He said the flowers I ordered, with the imprinted ribbon, would be delivered to the church two hours before the service.  And that’s where the good experience ended.

On the day of the service, less than an hour before it began, the flowers had not been delivered.  I called, and the on-hold-hell recording said they could not confirm deliveries over the phone and I had to go to their website.  Their site is not optimized for mobile, but after several minutes of searching, creating an account and logging in, I was able to determine that I apparently had not placed an order in the last 60 days.  What?  When I called again, the employee tried to brush me off.  When I told him there was half an hour before things all started for the family, and the church was already getting full, he finally put me on hold to contact the local florist.  When he came back he told me he had been assured that they were sending the order out and it should be there “in about 15 minutes.”  Really?

The delivery came from Brenda’s House of Flowers in Woodstock, GA, 10 minutes later, and I saw someone sign for it.  The confirmation email I later received was time stamped an hour and 10 minutes before the delivery was actually made!  The service was in Marietta, and why they contracted to Woodstock is beyond me.  There are some florists nearby the church, and many much closer than Woodstock.

It was not what I ordered, even though the flowers themselves were beautiful.  Yes, I know arrangements can look different for a variety of reasons.  However, I ordered a “medium” fireplace spray that I was told would be three feet high in a floor vase.  What arrived was a nice arrangment, to be sure, but was the “small,” only about two feet high and in a cheap basket.  The imprinted ribbon I requested had peel and stick letters, and was not the quality I paid for.

But here’s the kicker!  The man we were honoring was an Army colonel.  He was a “Sr.” in the family.  The delivery was sent to “SIO Kernel [name]” and that, my friends, was a travesty.  I am so glad I pulled the card before anyone else saw it!  Had I been a blood relative, I probably would not have been in the frame of mind to do this.  (Which makes me wonder, generally, how often things like this occur.)

You put yourself out there as “military florist,” and you can’t spell “colonel”??!!  Are you KIDDING me?

You run a florist business, and you can’t get the product to the memorial service when promised, before noon on a Saturday with very little traffic?

Folks, add these business to your “nopes” lists:

Brenda’s House of Flowers, Woodstock, GA

These businesses don’t seem to have cared at all about adding additional stress to an already quite stressful day.  Find someone else.  Find someone local to deal with, not a seemingly appropriate online retailer (my bad for that).

Many families are now requesting donations to charity in lieu of flowers.  Ours did, too, but we also wanted to adorn the event with this item.  We are still making the donation to, btw.  Because this is not the first time I feel ripped off by the florist industry in this kind of situation, I have to recommend that you go the donation route.  It also is less work on the family, imho.

So, you may be thinking, “Why is CT even thinking about things like this, with all the other more important things going on?”  Good point.  First, the memorial service is now over, and I’ve had time to process this.  I loved the man; I married into his family.  He had so many family, good-as-family, and friends supporting each other.  Most things were pre-planned, I was not there to help with the final details, the veterans were doing their thing, and because this was expected, I had worked through much of the mourning already.  I needed a distraction, or I was going to lose it, quite honestly, so I went to the narthex to breathe.  And when it suddenly struck me that the flowers weren’t there, well, that was something I could actually do.  I’m glad I followed up, and I’m glad I was able to pull the card that day.


9/7/15:  To be fair, I received a canned email response today after posting this article, that states in part:  “Thank you for taking the time to communicate to us why our service did not meet your expectations. I apologize that such inexcusable errors were made with your order for Colonel [name]. We have every intention of providing the best solution available to resolve the issue as soon as possible and regain your confidence in our company. Therefore, we would like to offer you a $20 gift certificate to show how deeply sorry we are for the substandard service demonstrated by From You Flowers.”  Needless to say, I won’t be taking advantage of that GC.

Comments Off on Never Use These Florists!

The Inevitable, Or, “It Really Worked Out Well.”

A few weeks ago, DH flew to visit his mom and dad, to transition his dad back home from the hospital, and his mom to a new normal, taking over for his sister who had been there several weeks.  Now, we have lost our patriarch.  He was an incredible man, a bona fide war hero, a kind and generous family man, and a true friend.  He is missed by many, none the least of which is his family.

When he told the doctors to stop all the treatments, we gathered the family and met up where he was, to say goodbye, and to settle him in hospice. We got him talking about his life and Army career, and I clicked on the audio recorder on my phone.  I am so grateful I have some of his last memories recorded.  As I listened to it today, I realized he kept saying, “So, it really worked out well,” when wrapping up stories.

DH stayed on to help get things in order, although my father in law had so lovingly taken care of so much of the planning and other things, so it was really about paperwork and phone calls at that point.  And acceptance of the inevitable.  After more family arrived, DH returned home.  FIL passed away the next day, so DH returned immediately to help with the rest of the arrangements.  We will all be gathering for the memorial service, and then again in a few more months at Arlington National Cemetery.

There is no question in times like this, that travel and expenses have to happen.  There is every reason to go and say goodbyes, thank yous, we love yous.  There is every reason to return to honor the dead and grieve with the living.  It is for reasons like this that we are incredibly glad that we knuckled down this year and built a larger emergency fund.  We would have gone, regardless, but we are able to disregard the stress of worrying about incurring debt over it.

Other issues have been pressing for us, as well, but not as heavy as this.  Dealing with this sadness, yet with joy for his life, is hard enough.  We were blessed to have him.  We are blessed that we can deal with the situation head on.  We are blessed to lean on each other and get through this together.  He said he couldn’t have asked for a better life, and he has hundreds of long-time friends to prove it.  His life really did work out well.

Seeing how his affairs were in such impeccable order gives us reason to reexamine our own estate.  We’ll be doing that, planning more carefully, and thinking of how it will affect others in the process.  I encourage you, dear readers, to do the same. If nothing else, please have life insurance in place to take care of the essentials your passing.

I also hope each of you will take some time this weekend to contact your loved ones, tell them how much they mean to you, and cherish that time.  And may your life work out really well, too.

Comments Off on The Inevitable, Or, “It Really Worked Out Well.”

Unleashing The Flying Monkeys

Well, I have unleashed the flying monkeys.

Recently, I wrote this:

“We did make a deposit on some services, which we cancelled, but not before that check was cashed.  So we’re in the process of requesting it back.  For budget purposes, it was recategorized under miscellaneous after the cancellation.  If we don’t get it back, we’ve learned our lesson, and have still come in under budget.

But let’s hope I don’t have to unleash the flying monkeys, because I could very easily do so.”

You know, when there’s a tool at your disposal for recovering funds from an unscrupulous business, it just makes sense to use it.  I contacted the business and gave them plenty of opportunity to make good.  The head honcho said he would take care of it and didn’t.  So after fair warning we filed a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

Good people, the BBB.  I’ve used their information for years to help make business decisions.  We’re now waiting the obligatory 14 days for the business to respond to our specific request for the return of our deposit.  We’ll go from there.  And once this is resolved, I’ll share the whole story.

I would encourage any of you who need resolution on a business matter, to contact the BBB to see if there is anything they can do in your particular case.  They can intervene on your behalf to recover funds, get work completed or brought to standard, and provide mediation in disputes.

But I really hope you never have to go to them for resolution.  I hope all your business ventures are positive and productive.


1 Comment »

Money Makeover — Yeah, That.

June was  an on-target month for our budget, except for one giant thing.  A window.

It had been on deferred maintenance for too many years.  We did it ourselves, with the help of an awesome friend.  But it was much more pricey than I budgeted.  I had gotten two previous quotes over the years, and thought I’d be fine estimating it, but I was way off. The window itself was $584.  It was a perfect fit, because it was the exact measurements and the same manufacturer as the original.  (A total shock!)

We were over budget on home repair, then, but it was okay, because we had the cash flow for it.  Other categories were a little over or a little under, and my income was more than budgeted.  I just didn’t send as much to savings in June.

Which brings us to July.  We went on a vacation, just the two of us.  Most of it was paid for as a gift from DH’s company (a service recognition we didn’t expect), and we never would have taken the trip if not for the gift.  It was a lovely trip to Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon North Rim, and we were so blessed to experience them!  We expected there would be some expenses we would have to eat, including new hiking shoes and taxes on the rental car.  As I hoped, we came in under budget for the vacation!

However, when we returned, we had a really nice dinner out because a) we were under budget, and b) we didn’t really get the nice dinner out that we expected at the lodge.  And then we had another dinner out.  And then we were over budget.

I also budgeted less for groceries because we were gone for a week, and #2 was gone most of the month.  I didn’t count on some fabulous, irresistible grocery deals late in the month.  After all, I had to refill my freezers, right?  When the end of the month hit, and I got around to reconciling receipts, I realized the error of our ways.  We had made some expensive choices. Not devastating, but not smart, either.

An unexpected issue came up with shower grout, too.  Since I knew from experience how difficult the job was, and that I couldn’t do it myself now, we hired a pro.  The price was good, and we had it done right away. Also, an unexpected but necessary trip out of state to care for parents meant an airline ticket, and that upset the budget, as well.  Fortunately, we had extra income in July, and that offset the spending.

I didn’t send anything to savings.  In fact, I’d used savings to pay the second installment of our property taxes (which was planned).  But we still have a nice emergency fund.

So we sat down and had another go at the second half of the year’s budget. We looked at our real spending (which was actually pretty good most of the time) and reconsidered some categories we had only estimated before.  Some items are delayed because of the upcoming trip, and we restructured several categories.

We’re back on track now! We realize that we need to sit down more often than every six months, and be sure all the expenses are being input.  And that’s what this process really is….adapting to the circumstances.

One area we have not adjusted is our giving.  We’re still at 10%, over various projects, and I can tell you that it makes all the difference.  After all, it’s not “our” money, it’s a gift to be used for His glory.  We are blessed to have what He has given us, and to be on the right path to be better stewards of these gifts.

Comments Off on Money Makeover — Yeah, That.


Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 59 other followers