Money-Saving Monday: A bit too thrifty

This is not an inspirational account about how to save money. This is a simple tale of woe.

Since I had heard several people say they get really good deals by printing Internet coupons on more than one printer (you're limited to a certain number of coupons per printer, typically two), I thought it would be worth it to revive my printer. (Plus, I wouldn't have to bug my husband every time I wanted to print something at his computer.) I purchased a black ink cartridge for my eight-year-old machine, thinking I would try to spend minimal money to get it up and running. No go—the printer required a black and a color cartridge to work.

Begrudgingly, I purchased the color cartridge and took it home, where I printed a few signs for my little guy's recent birthday party. Other than a few hiccups I'd expect from older technology, everything worked beautifully.

Later, I tried to print just an ordinary black-and-white document. Um, no. Spaces in the wording made it pretty ugly. Oh well, I thought. At least I can use the color cartridge.

I printed a couple practice documents as I was preparing to print some wording for invitations I'm currently making. Great! It was good to go.

Until I tried to print the actual thing. A little red light went on, and it was very stubborn. It supposedly meant there was a paper jam but there was not even a shred of paper in it. I unplugged it and turned off my computer. When I turned the printer on, that lovely little light just stared at me. I looked up Epson's trouble-shooting site and tried all the tricks it recommended. At the end, it gave me a standardized message saying I needed to take it to get it repaired, but it probably wouldn't be worth the expense.

Thank you so much.

When I told my husband, exasperated, he inspired me with these words: "You know, you can probably get a new printer for $30." Excuse me. I paid far more than that for the ink cartridges, which I now have to throw out because they are for such an archaic machine.

I'm sure I'll get over it, but just wasting money totally annoys me.

So the moral of this story? Sometimes I can be too thrifty. And being too thrifty, ironically, can cost a great deal. I should have tossed the old printer instead of trying to resurrect it after four years of latency.

I haven't completely given up, though. And if I get it to work, I suppose thriftyness will triumph after all.


A little look back

A year ago, we took Jack's first photo with his big bear. Our little guy was just three days old.

Since then, the bear seems to have shrunk substantially. And he is now sporting a fine little party hat.

Money-Saving Monday: Party planning

Yep, it's Tuesday, and yep, there was no money-saving post last Monday. A little family vacation and then Jack's party ate up much of my time.

Unlike previous parties we've hosted, my husband and I decided to set a firm budget for Jack's barnyard birthday. It would have been easy to get really carried away because celebrating his first year seemed like a big deal to me, and there were so many fun possibilities with the farm theme. So we set the budget at $100 (not including his birthday gift and his party outfit) for invitations, food, paper goods, games, prizes, favors, and decor. I think we may have gone a few dollars over when we had to run to the grocery store for some last-minute ingredients, but basically we stuck to it. Here's how:

  • Reuse: I found various craft supplies around the house that I was able to use or repurpose for the party, including cardstock, markers, and foam shapes for paper-bag puppets we made at the party. In addition, I was able to use a candle screen and some blue fabric I had left over from my wedding to create the "fish pond" (children "fished" for candy treats), and various baskets and boxes I had to hide plastic eggs in the "chicken coop."
  • Make it: Except for a $1 stick-the-tail-on-the-donkey game, I made simple games and activities rather than purchasing them. And while I usually order a grocery-store bakery cake, my husband and I baked and decorated the cake ourselves, which was actually quite fun.
  • Shop carefully: I found several items at a local dollar store (including a straw hat for Jack) that worked perfectly, plus I used coupons and found sales on several of the items. 
  • Get free money: I wrote some reviews on a mommy website that was offering a $5 Target card for contributing 10 reviews, and earned another $5 gift card with a Target purchase. Plus, I got at $21 check from Ebates after doing some online shopping that I would have done ordinarily. This made my budget $131.
  • Splurge a little: There were some elements to the party I couldn't save much on, such as watermelon and hay bales (although the feed store staff suggested I purchase straw instead of hay for a bit less, and I did). I didn't mind spending the money because I felt those were important elements and I was able to save in so many other areas. 
How do you save on kids' or other parties while still making them fun?


A Barnyard of First Birthday Fun

Jack is one today.

That means one whole year has passed since those 12 hours of labor and ensuing C-section and waking up from the anesthesia to a brand new baby—and a whole new beautiful life with him. I remember coming to and thinking, in my morphine-engulfed state, "I just had a baby. I had a baby. Somewhere in this hospital is my baby." I asked the kind nurse all about him—how much he weighed, how he looked—and after what seemed like forever my husband stood at the door of the room with a little hospital-blanket-wrapped bundle.

I didn't look like those mommies who are made up and ready for photo ops. I looked completely awful—sweat-soaked hair, glasses, and all. I felt more than out of it from all the medication the surgery necessitated and the surprise C-section and the previous hours of labor. My husband placed him in my arms; I held baby Jack and just stared and him. I had waited to see what no ultrasound could reveal for so long. He was mine.

Fast-forward a year. So much has changed. He's grown tall (as in more than the 95th percentile tall) and has a cute little personality. He giggles and crawls and loves to be tickled. He's all boy, exploring, climbing, and reaching for everything. He splashes in his bath and intently watches Daddy work on home improvement projects. He does other not-so-adorable things, like throwing food off of his high chair tray, and letting out angry little shrieks when he doesn't get that thing he so desperately wants.

To celebrate his big first birthday, we turned our backyard into a little "farm" with a fish pond, hay field, petting zoo, chicken coop, and craft barn (all pretend of course), and invited some folks to join in on the fun. We decked out a farm-and-animal cake (see the instructions), played games, gave out barnyard-themed prizes (everyone wins when you're that small), and served up "cow pies" and "hay stacks" (cookies). The party culminated with the big cake-tasting by Jack himself. Once he figured out the cupcake animal was indeed edible, he ate it. And ate it. He only got a few crumbs on his shirt (we dressed him in it with the thought it would be nearly destroyed) because he was so excited about eating it. He also loved his first taste of ice cream.

One little baby and one short year has changed my world in the biggest—and happiest—ways imaginable.

The food table, with a wheelbarrow holding drinks

The cake

A banner of monthly photos

Jack loved his party guests pulling him around in his new wagon.

Playing games: fishing, finding eggs, and sticking the tail on the donkey (or on its stomach, actually)

Discovering how much he loves cake

Our birthday boy, ready for his nap after the big bash


Money-Saving Monday: Sharing

Saving money (and getting things free) is a wonderful way to share with others. Here are some examples:

  • Give away free stuff: If you notice a product that is free at a drugstore or grocery store, and you can't use it yourself (or you get too many of the thing to use yourself), consider giving it to a friend who could use it, or donate it a local shelter or other charity that provides services for people in need. My church assists a church in Mexico, partly by sending Christmas gifts to the children and adults. I was able to tuck a few extra things in the gift we sent this past year because of freebies from Walgreen's.
  • Donate expired coupons: Perhaps you're an avid coupon clipper, but, like me, don't always use each one before it has expired. At least two charities organize programs designed to help you get your expired coupons to military families, who are able to use them at commissaries. Check out the Military Family Coupon Project and/or the Overseas Coupon Program if you are interested.
  • Use your savings to give: Saving money on unremarkable things such as toothpaste and pasta enables us to give in a way that might make a remarkable difference to someone else.
What are your ideas for saving to share?


A year together

The family photos we took for Jack's first year were a bit of an adventure. First, we were a tad rushed because I was disorganized and late. Then, Jack didn't follow my little plan and take a nap in the car, so he was not in the mood for smiling. The photographer, who graciously accommodated my not-so-gracious lateness, jumped up and down, tickled Jack, and made every silly noise I'm sure he could think up, but still Jack just stared him down. Quite the opposite from his six-month photos; Jack could hardly stop smiling then.

He did get a smile out of him every once in a while. Here are some of the results:

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