Little Bites: A Frugal Snow Day

Since I was stuck in the house after yet another snowstorm here in New Jersey (19 inches this time, on top of the foot or so that was still on the ground), I didn’t spend any money today. Instead, I worked from home and then spent some time mending holes in a few socks, followed by sewing up a rip in my favorite pair of maternity jeans (for, oh, the fourth time!).

Yes, the fourth time. I love these suckers, made by Motherhood Maternity, but the material is crappy and thin. First, I got holes at the corner of the pockets. But this time, it was a rip in the groin area — not a good look. I sewed it up tight since I really didn’t want to put a patch there. Just last a few more weeks, please!

As for the socks, Mr. NSF asked me what the hell I was doing. When I told him I was sewing up the holes made by my overly long big toe, he rolled his eyes, laughed, and told me to just buy new socks. I can only make the man so frugal, right?

Bedroom Renovation: (Almost) Finished

In other news, our bedroom renovations are now complete — I’m very excited about that! Mr. NSF and his dad will clean up the room this weekend and apply the primer coat to the walls and ceiling. There are 3 closets that need to be painted, which will be a pain. This time, I won’t be helping, though. My job is to get blinds and curtains. Needless to say, I’m feeling pretty helpless at this point. I was scraping spackle off the floor with a putty knife taped to the end of a pole — with one hand and minimal force — and I got yelled at. “You don’t need to do that!” No, I don’t, but I gotta do SOMETHING. Oh, and I may or may not have wired an outlet or two last night…

I’m getting pricing on wall-to-wall carpeting for the upstairs, and I hope that can be done in the next 2-3 weeks, because our bedroom furniture (and the baby’s) is currently all in the baby’s room, and it’s getting closer and closer to “go time.”

Biting the Bullet: New Living Room Furniture

It’s been a long time coming, but we finally ordered new couches for our living room, to replace a current furniture setup that looks like it belongs in a frat house. We have a small couch that’s only a few years old, but Mr. NSF loves to lay across it every evening, leaving no room for me (especially not for me AND my baby bump). Coffee table? We have one of those, lovingly being held together with silver duct tape, since one of the legs broke last year. And our TV stand was made for an old-school TV, not the 46-inch flatscreen currently perched precariously on top of it.

The couch we chose.

On Saturday, after talking about furniture for what seemed like forever (but was probably only 2 weeks in real time), we bit the bullet and ordered a couch and loveseat from a local furniture store. The two pieces will set us back about $1,250, which isn’t bad at all for custom pieces of furniture. Delivery is free, and the state sales tax is halved in the particular town where the store is located (these towns/cities in New Jersey are called Urban Enterprise Zones).

We picked a nice berry/wine color in order to provide some contrast to our cream-painted walls, and we’re told the order will take about 12 weeks to come in. Only 25% of the total price was required to place the order.

Next on the agenda is a new coffee table, a small end table to separate the couch and loveseat, and a TV stand (preferably a small entertainment center).

My main reason for wanting the new couch and loveseat is so we can all sit together in the living room to watch TV — comfortably. Especially once the baby comes — she’ll need some seating for herself when she’s older, too. Not that she’ll be watching a ton of television, if I have my way…

Our current couch will be moved into our back “bonus” room, where we only have a futon right now. So in reality, we’ll have two rooms with plenty of seating. The futon also doubles as an extra bed for when we have guests over.

I’m hoping this sofa and loveseat will last us 15 years — I think it will be well worth the price we paid if it does make it that long.

I’m Now in Semi-Panic Mode

That “nesting instinct” everyone keeps talking about? It’s finally kicked in! And there’s not a damned thing I can do at the moment.

Our two upstairs bedrooms are in flux — but good flux, for lack of a better description. While we’d finished the baby’s room around Thanksgiving, our bedroom still needed to go through the complete renovation process. Thank goodness Grandpa came to the rescue! As our ridiculously-generous Christmas gift, he’s paying for professionals to replace the knotty pine walls and tiled ceiling with properly sheetrocked surfaces. In just 6 days, the contractors have done what took us 13 months to get through ourselves. On their end, all that’s left to do is put in new windows and molding/trim. That leaves us with painting and carpeting. No small tasks, either.

Right now, our bedroom is full of furniture — our set of bed/dresser/chest and the baby’s new dresser & chest of drawers. The crib is also in there, albeit in a humongous box. Can’t even put that together until after the carpet is ordered and installed, since once assembled, the crib won’t fit through the doorway to allow for the new carpeting to be put down.

So I can’t set up the baby’s room (“nursery” sounds so pretentious to me for some reason…) until this is all done. I’m not so concerned about our bedroom. But now, as I’m rounding the bases and heading for home — almost 34 weeks along! — I’m really panicking. My days and nights are consumed with thoughts of what I need to do before this little one comes. As I keep telling Mr. NSF, “full term” is considered 37 weeks and beyond. That’s just 3 weeks away! Although I’m convinced we’re going to have to coerce Baby Frugalista out of her current surroundings.

I’m hoping to pick out and order carpeting this weekend for the two rooms and the hallway in between, and also decide on the paint color for the walls. If I can get that done, I’ll at least feel better about our progress.

Duking It Out: Pregnancy vs. Blogging

I’ve been much more lax in my blogging duties in the past few months, as this little one is not only taking over my body, but also my thoughts and actions. My priority is keeping her safe, providing all the energy and rest she needs, and letting her grow big, strong and healthy. Pregnancy is hard work!

It’s also turning me from a window shopper into a shopper-shopper. I can’t pass the infant clothing section at Kohl’s without losing a half-hour immersing myself in all the little outfits — and then walking out with one or two, rationalizing the purchase with the thought, “Hey, it’s only $6!”

Came home with two little newborn outfits today — one from the discount rack, and both prices further reduced thanks to a 30% off coupon. And I paid with a gift card. So I’m okay with today’s purchases, despite knowing we have tons of wonderful hand-me-down outfits and gifted clothing that will easily get this little one through her first birthday.

Now that I’m 33 weeks along, I realize there are a ton of things to do: a crib and baby items to be assembled, little things to be purchased, a house to be put in order. Our bedroom is currently being renovated by professionals, which means our furniture and bed — along with the baby’s nursery furniture — are share a lavender-walled room at the moment. I’m hoping by the end of next week the renovations will be finished, and then it will be down to carpeting and paint. But it’s still going to be a race to the finish.

Every day and every evening, thoughts swirl around my head, taunting me about the unfinished work that needs to be done. But we can’t put the crib together, as it won’t fit through the doorway if we need to empty the room for carpeting. But I know everything will get done in due time. I can’t make the process go any faster.

And the exhaustion of the first trimester has returned with a vengeance in the third. I can’t stay awake too long after dinner (which usually happens after I get home from work; we eat at 7:30 or 8), which doesn’t leave me time to do things like laundry, the dishes, and blog. Unfortunately, clean clothes and dishes come before blogging, so that’s been taking up my now-limited awake time. The other consideration is that I don’t want to blog only about a baby who has yet to make her grand entrance into the world.

Another thing I’ve been slacking on: I have yet to draw up a solid post-baby budget outline, which is on my agenda for the next week. Although it will be hard to figure out all the variables without actually seeing how our expenses will pan out.

The result? Pregnancy, 1, Blogging, 0.

Discussion: TLC’s Extreme Couponing

I wrote a post on Rainy-Day Saver that’s suddenly seen a major uptick in page views. I think it’s because people are Googling the name of TLC’s “Extreme Couponing,” a new show that’s been getting a lot of attention over the holiday break. Searching for the show brings up the Rainy-Day Saver post on Google’s first search page.

One of the women profiled on Extreme Couponing picked up 20 liters of soda on one trip to the store. In another example, a man purchased 2,000 items in ONE SHOPPING TRIP, whittling down the bill from $5,743 retail to $241. This same guy has “10,000 items stockpiled in his garage” (TLC’s wording, not mine). And yet another saver has 3,000 rolls of toilet paper!

So I’d like to revisit the idea of extreme couponing — is it frugality at its best, or hoarding?

I’ll readily admit that I envy those who can whittle down a $300 shopping order to 20 bucks by stacking coupons, rebates and sales. But I think most people are hard-pressed to find the time and coupons required to get such fantastic “deals.”

That’s another thing — are they really “deals” if you’re buying 20 products that you won’t use before their expiration dates? Things like laundry detergent will last, but even toiletries like toothpaste are only good for so long. Same goes for grocery items such as canned and packaged goods. They have longer shelf lives, but they’ll still become unusable. I’ve seen it happen even when I “overstock” our pantry — sometimes, we just don’t get to that extra bottle of ranch dressing.

There are folks who donate much of their hauls to the less fortunate and organizations that help those in need. Some people dedicate tens of hours a week to finding these savings. Me, I try to save us money where I can, but I don’t always want to use the deodorant I can get for free, due to skin allergies. Or maybe I don’t like the taste of the pasta sauce that would only cost me $.10. But honestly, most of the time, I don’t discover these type of deals.

I’m just happy to clip my coupons and pair them with circular sales. If I happen to qualify for cash back toward a future order, that’s a bonus. But it’s hard for me to live and breathe extreme couponing, like some folks do.

Different strokes for different folks, as they say.

Free Formula and Diaper Coupons on the Brain

Baby Frugalista still has 8 weeks or so to arrive, yet I’m on the prowl for diaper coupons. Maybe she’ll arrive a few weeks before schedule, maybe she’ll be a week or two late (I’m thinking late — anyone want to start a Pregnancy Pool?). But either way, we’re gonna need diapers.

Lots of diapers.

I’m not “green” enough to use cloth diapers, so I already know we’ll be going with disposables. Every week, when I get the grocery coupon circulars in the Sunday newspaper, I now keep my eyes peeled for diaper coupons. And it’s still annoying to find that these coupons will expire before I give birth. So much for stocking up on coupons.

However, I don’t want to stock up on the diapers themselves, since we don’t know how big Baby Frugalista will wind up being when she gets here. At our last ultrasound at 29 weeks, she was measuring on the smaller end of the scale — but not too small — with her weight putting her into the 34th percentile for babies of the same gestational age. And her head? A petite 22nd percentile. Although at first the ultrasound tech measured wrongly (5th percentile? Eeek!), and the perinatologist was ready to give us a talk about microencephaly (small head). For a good 3 minutes, we were having visions of horror-movie characters who had their heads shrunken by evil voodoo doctors. But when the perinatologist re-measured, everything was fine. He called us into his office anyway to apologize, and then asked us what size hats we wear. I’m an XS, and Mr. NSF is a S/M, so it’s not surprising the baby would also have a small noggin. But I digress.

We’ll probably get a box or two of diapers in the newborn and 1 sizes. But moving forward, I’ll really be on the lookout for diaper coupons. Luckily, friends and family know my of my predilection for saving money and will gladly pass their coupon finds over to us. The coupons, paired with vigilant research to find the best diaper deals, will hopefully keep us in diapers with as little pain to our bank account as possible.

Free Formula

I also came across a post on a pregnancy message board that told how Enfamil was offering a free “case” of 24 bottles of its Premium Newborn Nursette 2-ounce formula. While I’m going to try to nurse at first, I’m sure I’ll have a need for supplemental formula at some point, and hopefully this stuff will keep for a few months.

It took 17 minutes on hold — thank you, speakerphone — but I got through to and requested the promotional offer. They happily obliged, and in two to three weeks, I should receive the baby formula. That was pretty easy.

Now, to sign up for every formula/diaper brand “club” known to man. Thank heavens for my ‘junk’ email address!

Home Renovations and Maternity Leave

As I mentioned right after Thanksgiving, we finally finished renovating one of the two bedrooms on our second floor, which will serve as the baby’s room. But with barely two months left before Baby Frugalista arrives, we still need to renovate the other bedroom.

As of right now, we’ve moved our bedroom set into the renovated bedroom AND have the baby’s furniture in there, too. Luckily, the rooms are pretty large. But I really want everything settled before March. Partly to stop me from freaking out over it and partly out of the goodness of their hearts, our parents are helping us get this room done a lot quicker than it would take had we done the work ourselves. Someone will actually be paid to do the work.

On Monday, a contractor friend of my father-in-law’s will arrive to finish gutting the room, start framing it out and then sheetrock it. Oh, how happy I will be to have it done. If they can finish it up in a few weeks, there’s a good chance we can get carpeting installed in both rooms by mid-February. Then we can sort the furniture properly into the two rooms, although I’m sure the baby will be sleeping in the room with us for the first few months. And if it doesn’t get finished before I give birth, it won’t be the end of the world.

Maternity Leave

I officially stated to my job what will be the last day before going out on maternity leave — February 24. I’ll be using up my vacation days from 2010 to go out early, because if I don’t use them by the end of June, I’ll lose them. And I don’t want to take a chance that I could use them at the end of June after my disability/family leave pay is finished, because with my luck, I”ll go late and blow any chance of using the days.

Thanks the the generosity of my employer and a lot of freelance work I’ve done over the past 6-7 months, I plan to be home with the baby for a full 6 months. The first three months I will receive disability and family leave insurance payments, but the rest of the time, we’re on our own. That’s where our savings account will come in. All of the bills will be paid, without putting a super-big dent in our savings. Plus, we should get a nice tax refund in March (or whenever the darned IRS gets to processing our return). The IRS has announced that people who itemize using Schedule A (us, of course) shouldn’t submit their tax returns until a to-be-announced date, estimated to be mid to late February.

I’m starting to feel like there’s so much to be done around this house, and I’m getting nowhere. Must be the nesting instinct everyone keeps talking about!