Thursday, September 23, 2010

Pet Care Adds Up

If you have any pets, you know that they can be extremely costly to take care of, feed, and the vet bills can be nothing short of outrageous.  I take my daughters to the pediatrician many times a year, and I never have that pit in the stomach feeling that I do when I visit the vets with my dogs.  I agonize over having to make their appointments knowing full well that I will be bullied into items that my dogs probably don't really need, but because I want to be a good Pet Caregiver, I feel too badly to say, "No." 

It's that time of year again, the time where the dogs need to go in for their annual checkups, and get their shots.  They also need heartworm and flea medications too, which as I sit here typing this I can almost feel my throat begin to close up a little in anticipation of the bill that I will receive.  "No MORE", I think as I move to another browser in my screen and begin searching for more vets in the area.  Maybe it's just my vet, and possibly I have chosen the most expensive vet in Bluffton.  When I find the Vet websites, absolutely none of them list the costs fore services related to the annual check ups, shots, or medication offered.  This is not going to be easy, but I'm ready to put in the work to save the money.  So we called 3 Vets in Bluffton and none of the prices were the same:

Banfield Pet Hospital
  • Exam $110/ dog not including the Heartworm and feces test - Includes Rabies, DHLP, and Bordetalla shots
  • Heartworm and feces test (which they recommend) $75/pet
  • Heartworm meds (6 for $35)
  • Frontline (4 for $57)
Bluffton Vet
  • Exam $186/dog - includes Rabies, DHLP, Bordatella, and Feces test.  If you want a 3 year Rabies, add $23.
  • Heartworm (Interceptor) ($55.75 for 6 - 55lb and up) ($40.50 for 6 - under 55lbs) and singles for $10
  • Frontline (55lb dog - 6 for $78) (45lb dog - 6 for $75), Singles are $18 and $17
Coastal Vet
  • Exam $150/dog - includes 3 year Rabies, DHLP, Bordatella, heartworm and feces test.
  • Heartworm (Interceptor) (55lb - 6 for $49)(45lb - 6 for $36)
  • Heartworm (Heartgrade) (55lb - 6 for $43) (45lb - 6 for $38)
  • Advantage (55lb - 7 for $90) (45lb - 7 for $85)
After calling all of these vets, I was still feeling like I was going to have yet another $600.00 bill to pay when I took them in and was feeling a bit beaten.  As I sat there I was trying to figure out what to do, do I keep calling more vets just to get the same prices, or do I call the Humane Society for information.  It occurred to me that the Humane Society wants to help because they don't want to end up with dogs who have no home because their owners can't afford to care for them.  We called and she recommend Affordable Pet Clinic in Beaufort, SC.  The prices for this vet are below, and amazingly enough we have to wait a few weeks for an appointment while the other vets could get us in immediately. 

Affordable Pet Clinic (Beaufort, SC)
  • Exam $75/dog includes 3 year Rabies, DHLP, Dewormer, and Heartworm test.  Bordatella is $15 extra.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Garage Sale 101

In order to live a more clutter free life and make some additional money, it is always good to have a yard or garage sale from time to time.  Our Community has one every spring and fall and we join in almost every time.  It always amazes me how much stuff we seem to accumulate in our house, garage, back yard, etc.  Even though I have cleaned out my closet numerous times over the last few years, I still have a huge amount of clothing that I never seem to wear.  This past Saturday we threw our own garage sale without the help of the community advertisement and the additional houses selling stuff too.  I was absolutely amazed by the amount of people that showed up and was so very happy to see almost all of our items go. 

When we decided to have our own sale without the rest of the community, I was a little worried.  I knew that the traffic was obviously higher on the day of the Community Sale as I am drawn more to a community yard sale than one that is all alone.  My thinking is that I can see more at one time and I won't be driving all over town from one to another, so I assumed that others shared my "Garage Sale Laziness" also.  I was so WRONG.  In the week before the sale, I gathered items from the house, and mentally made note of the furniture that needed to be moved out.  The night before the yard sale, my husband and I moved all the items for sale to the garage and tagged most of the stuff with prices.  We set up the tables that would be pushed out, cleaned the garage, and cleaned up the items for sale as well.  I had advertised on Craigslist a few times that week, and had already gotten a call about some of the items that we had for sale. 

The morning of the sale, I meant to get up at 5am, but I didn't actually get out of bed until 6am.  By 6:30am my husband and I were pushing the items for sale out to the driveway and setting up.  Even though I had advertised that the sale started at 8am, at 7 o'clock on the dot, a van pulled up and 6 or 7 guys came into the driveway to look at the items we had for sale.  I had about 3/4 of the stuff out and tagged, and by 7:05 we had sold an entire bedroom set and loaded half of it into the van.  After that it was a steady stream of people until about 9:45am.  It died down around 10am, and by 11am we had sold the majority of our items.  It was a great success and I highly recommend it.  If you don't have tables, you can always use 2 sawhorses with a board on top, or for clothes, just place them on a blanket laid out.  While I didn't think that we would make as much money without the Community Yard Sale support, but we ended up making more money and I think it was because we did not have any competition and people only bring a certain amount of money.  In a community yard sale, they could spend all their money before they get to your sale.  I found out that we sold more furniture and big items in our own sale, but sold many more small items and knickknacks in the Community one.  Set yours according to what you are selling.   Below are some tips that I learned along the way:

1.  Get change the night before.  Go and get $20 in change, mostly ones and keep in an envelope in your pocket.
2.  Advertise, Advertise, Advertise  - Put your ad on Craigslist and any other free listings in your area.  Include as much detail as possible as people are looking for specific items and it could be just what they are looking for.  Mention it on the Bluffton Today blogs and your Facebook status.
3.  Have some plastic grocery bags available for customers to carry away their goods.
4.  Clean your items before you put them out.  Customers are looking for gently used items, not gross dirty items.  A rag and some cleaner can do wonders for your stuff.
5.  Place signs at your entrance and at every turn telling customers how to get there.  Put your address on the sign as well.
6.  Get out there early and be ready, we have always sold the majority of our items between 7 and  9am.
7.  Be ready to haggle, I'm not that good at this so I leave it to my husband.  But price your items $2 or $3 above what you want to sell them for, so you have a little wiggle room.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Panic Attack . . .

As I log into tonight to take a look at my spending trends lately, the first thing that jumps out at me is a piggy bank wrapped in Christmas lights with a note that says, "The Holidays are only 12 weeks away!"  Since I can feel my heart start to beat a little bit faster with this news, I thought I would have to share this with you.  OH MY GOD, since I normally do my Christmas shopping starting on black Friday, that means that in about 8 weeks I will need to have enough Christmas money set aside to do my shopping. 

Wow, it's amazing to me how quickly that can make me nervous.  We have been doing so well with our spending, but somehow around the holidays, we get a little crazy.  For the past few years, we have been waking up at 4am to Christmas shop on black Friday morning.  Well worth it if you have kids, as there are some really great deals.  I normally start googling the black Friday ads weeks before and planning out my mission.  I know that I need to get to each store right when it opens if the item I am looking for is something that will go quickly.  From recent years, Walmart opens at 5am, Target at 6am, and last year, we were walking into Toys R Us at 4:30am which was 4 hours after they had opened.  CRAZY but true, the Saver in me comes out this day every year and I normally do pretty well with my Christmas shopping. 

To start, I first make a list of everyone I need to buy for this year.  Then I set a budget for each person or couple depending on how they are listed.  For the girls, I do set a budget too, but I have never been very good at sticking to it.  Then I start to browse the ads and begin picking gifts for each person on my list.  I circle the toys for the girls and zone in on the best toys for the best value.  I also have a knack for going to my rewards points this time of year.  My Wachovia debit gives points for each time it is used as a credit card, and last year I got a $100 Toys R Us gift card with the points that we used to buy our toddler a toy kitchen.  I didn't have to pay anything for those points, I just have to remember to use my debit card as a credit card when I pay at places like the gas station and stores. 

So beginning this week, I am going to try to cut my spending back another $20 so that I can begin putting that toward my Christmas spending.  As I write this, I am labeling an envelope "Christmas Money" and placing it into the junk drawer.  I will need to put $20 in each week so that I start out with a pot of $160.00 that money that I know won't go onto the Credit Card. 

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Football Season's Here!!!!

Football Season is here and for us that means Sunday Funday Football with yummy football food and snacks.  One of our favorite dips to make is the Chicken Wing Dip that I got from a friend and have since passed the recipe on and on.  Such an easy yummy treat, not healthy at all, but this time of year a lot of the ingredients are on sale.  You know that I talk about the Rotisserie Chickens a lot, and I have been told that when they go on sale, you can buy them and freeze them in freezer bags if you want to use them in a dish later.  I have not tried this yet, but be assured that I will.  When they are on sale, I definitely recommend the dip below, and the other ingredients have coupons throughout this season as well:

Chicken Wing Dip

2 Cups Chopped Chicken (I use the chicken from a Rotisserie, but to save money you can cook the chicken yourself)
3/4 Hot Sauce (I use Franks Hot Sauce, and they do put a coupon in the Red Plum insert from time to time)
2 blocks of Cream Cheese ( has coupons for cream cheese right now)
1/2 cup Blue Cheese dressing (I use the one in the produce section, and there was a coupon in the Red Plum this week)
1 Cup shredded Cheddar (Again, there is a coupon on and one came out of the Red plum too)
Tortilla scoops (On sale at Publix this week)

In an 8x8 dish or casserole dish, spread the cream cheese on the bottom of the dish.  In a separate bowl combine the chicken and hot sauce.  Place the chicken mixture over top of the cream cheese.  Spread the Blue Cheese dressing on top of the Chicken mixture, top with shredded cheese.  Bake at 350 for 30 mins or until bubbly at the sides.  Serve with Tortilla scoops or Triskets.  YUMMY!!

(Other recipes call for canned chicken and more blue cheese; I prefer this recipe, but it's totally up to you!  Also if you really hate Blue Cheese, you can always substitute Ranch instead.)

Thursday, September 9, 2010

Picnic Time

The weather is getting cooler around here, which for me means that we can finally get outside a bit more to get the much needed fresh air and enjoy the outdoors before winter gets here. Whenever I think of going outside and spending some time, I think “PICNIC.” Picnics are a great chance to save money and enjoy the scenery in the Low Country while not breaking the bank. There are some great offerings for picnic ideas at the local grocery stores this week whether you want to do a dinner picnic at the beach or head to the Beaufort Water front with a blanket for a great water view lunch.

Obviously sandwiches are a great lunch choice, I have found that Food Lion normally has the best deals on lunch meat, but I am not a huge fan of their customer service. Publix has a Serrano Ham in the deli that is always $2.99 per pound, where you only need about a ½ pound for a few sandwiches. This week there is a Land O’lakes coupon at for $1.00 off deli cheese, so if you need some cheese for your sandwiches, this is a great savings. If you want to pump it up a notch, head to the bakery and grab some good sub rolls that are normally about $2.00 or so, or throw it on your bread from home for free – Your Choice. For some healthy side items, Crunch Pak Apple slices are $2.50, Pears are .99 per pound, and the Eat Smart Veggies are $1.67 each. Grab some cookies or cream cake to satisfy your sweet tooth and you can easily feed your gang for less than $10.00.

For a picnic dinner, Publix has a meal deal where you can get fried chicken, 2 sides, and bread for normally around $10.99, I think. This goes on sale from time to time as well. This is not the healthiest option, but it’s such a good choice when you want to splurge on calories because their fried chicken is yummy! We normally grab a container of potato salad and macaroni salad, with the sweet rolls for a treat on the beach. They have the napkins and utensils and the bag to boot, so toss it all in and you have an indulgent treat at a cost saving price.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Keep Positive, things could be worse . . .

You know that I have been listening to stories from my friends and family lately regarding their finances and troubles with money in general, and my husband constantly reminds me, "it could be worse."  I always nod, yes, he is right, but I never really take the time to consider what part could be worse.  When he says it, I completely agree, but it's just a hypothetical and doesn't seem to keep me from wallowing later on.  This past Sunday we were sitting in church, we had dropped our toddler off in the nursery, but I always keep our infant with me so that I can make sure her needs are met.  This isn't always easy, and I do try to keep her as quiet as possible, regardless of what the people around me think.  As I was rocking and feeding and rocking her, I heard the pastor start to talk about brooks drying up in our lives.  He metaphorically compared a brook drying up to unemployment, loss of a house, or less opportunities and money as before.  My husband and I looked at each other eerily, and my focus went back to the pastor.  I was thinking about things that we had lost over the last few years. 

We make less money, we are on a tighter budget, bills seem to be growing by the minute, and I feel like my brook has begun to dry up.  With that I listened more closely, as the pastor singled out a man in the church with his wife.  He told the story of this man fighting a very aggressive form of cancer, and how he has been told by doctors that there is not much more they can do for him.  Tears filled my eyes as I held my infant closer.  He told of the good times in this man's life and how the man is feeling that his brook is drying up.  Hard times have befallen him and he doesn't know why.  Once the tears started to come, I could not stop them.  I was crying for this man, but also crying because of how selfish I felt.  Here I was in church worrying about our income growing smaller, when a few rows ahead of me, a woman was worrying that her husband is dying.  It touched me, and it make me realize how small my problems really are in comparison.  Yes, I will continue to save money and work toward my goal, but I also need a reality check from time to time to remind me that things could be so much worse. 

Monday, September 6, 2010

Get back on the horse

This is a journey because if I had mastered the art of saving money by now, I wouldn't be in the position of having to keep a tight budget.  The biggest reason that we fail in our budgeted spending is that we love to be out and eat out.  We went to the beach one night last week and didn't really think about dinner.  Around 5:30pm our toddler started to get cranky, and we were just coming off the beach.  We were all getting hungry for dinner and it occurred to me that we would be getting home around 6pm or so, then I would need to cook something for dinner and we may not eat until 7pm.  Way too late for our little one and we were not wanting to wait either.  Across the street is Fudruckers, which is against both of our mantras lately:  Eat Healthy and Save Money.  So we totally blew it.  We spend $26.00 on hamburgers and fries for 3 people.  It was yummy, but it came with the feeling of regret afterward. 

I refuse to beat myself up for these off track events, that is exactly why it is a journey for us and now we just need to get back on that horse and keep going forward.  This week I will try to be a little tighter on my grocery shopping because of our splurge, and keep trying to find additional ways to cut my budget. 

Friday, September 3, 2010

Talk about it!

I was raised that it is taboo to talk about money . . . how much we make, how much we spend, how much debt someone is carrying.  Well, in writing this blog I pretty much threw that right out of the window, but I still find myself closing down a bit when people are trying to talk to me about money.  I am throwing out the savings ideas left and right, but today when I am getting my hair cut, the hair stylist is talking to me about saving money because she is saving for a car.  She starts to tell me a bit about how she ran up some credit cards at 18 years old and is still paying them off.  Did I jump in and start giving her some of my ideas, did I at least offer that I had done the same thing when I was 18 years old?  Nope, I just sat there and listened.  I did offer that I was writing a blog on the subject, she seemed interested, but for some reason I did not say another word about it.  I swear that there is a little person that sits on my shoulder saying, "You shouldn't be talking about this, it's not right".  I would like to squish that little guy, because here I sit regretting that I didn't pipe up and try to help her. 

The point today is to talk about it.  Talk to your friends, talk to your family, talk to anyone who will listen, because many of us have been taught not to talk about finances and money.  BUT . . . I have found that my friends have some great tips, and each one does things a little different that if we put all the ideas into a plan of action, we could dig ourselves right out of debt.  One of my friends uses when she buys diapers from  She tells me that the diapers there are the cheapest around, and they offer free shipping.  By using Ebates, she gets money back just for purchasing the items that she needs to buy anyway.  My other friend collects the Pampers rewards and earns enough to get a gift card from time to time, and even gets the rewards from her daycare to earn more.  Hey, if no one is using them, why shouldn't she?? 

As a side note, to save money lately on my beauty routine, I have stopped highlighting my hair cold turkey.  I have been coloring and getting my hair done on a monthly basis since I was 15, and now is the time to stop.  Just by getting my hair only cut and styled today instead of highlighting it, I saved over $100.  Since I would normally spend over $150.00 at the salon to get my hair done, I'm now spending more like $50!  Super bonus, I am going to be posting a note next week of some of the salons in the area and their prices.  We all know that it's so hard to comparison shop for your hair-do, so we just pay what they tell us to.  Today that stops, let's be informed Bluffton consumers instead!