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Monday, August 30, 2010

Monday Meditation - Who sold Joseph into Egypt?

Last week, if you had asked me to tell the story of Joseph being sold into Egypt, I probably would have said...  Joseph's had 11 brothers.  Many of them (probably not Benjamin) didn't like that he was their father's favorite.  So one day, when he came to visit them while they were tending the flocks, they desired to be rid of him and threw him into a pit.  While they were eating, the decided that instead of leaving him there to die, they would sell him to a group of Ishmeelites who were passing by.  They took him out of the pit and sold him and the Ishmeelites then took him to Egypt and sold him to Potiphar.

Friday, as I was reading in Genesis, I discovered a major difference in the facts of this story.  Joseph's brothers came up with the plan to sell him but when they went to get him out of the pit, he wasn't there.  While they had been eating, a group of Midianites came along and found him in the pit.  They had the same idea as Joseph's brothers and sold him to the Ishmeelites.

Yesterday, I was still pondering this and thinking of how many times I've read that verse (Genesis 37:28) and yet never caught that piece of information.  Then I had the reminder pop into my head that the intent to sin is a sin.  We've been taught that you commit the sin in your heart before you commit it in action.  Joseph's brothers did not commit the sin in action but they had in their hearts (and would have committed it in action if given the opportunity).  And yet, probably most people would tell the story similar to the way I would have last week.  Joseph's brothers have the reputation of having committed this sin thousands of years later!

What does that teach us?  Not only do we need to be careful of our actions, we need to be careful of our thoughts and intents to do evil.  When new in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, we tend to focus on our actions, not committing sins.  As we progress in our testimonies, we are taught to control our thoughts.  This story has reminded me that as much as Satan can tell us that no one will know our sins, others not only can not our sins, but they can know our intent to sin.  It is so important to give a wide berth to that cliff!  Or we may gain a reputation that we do not desire.

Update:  A friend just let me know that her version of the Bible (waiting to hear which one) says that the brothers pulled Joseph out of the pit when the Midianites passed by.  Maybe later today, I'll try to find the different versions and see how they compare, including some translating from the original Hebrew.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

WFMW - Coupon Organization Part 1

I love coupons!  With a little effort, I'm able to save quite a bit... well I don't save any money, I get more food than I would with my food budget otherwise.  With that thought, maybe I need to stop couponing so we have less food in the house so I eat less.  Hmm, have to think on that one.

Thinking is done.  Nope!  Going to keep on couponing!

Finding the coupons I need to match up with a sale could be quite difficult with my coupon stash if they weren't organized.  There are several options for organizing coupons.  One is to immediately cut out the ones you will use and discard the rest.  Another filing system using baseball card organizers in a binder - you cut out ALL the coupons and put them in the binder and take it with you shopping.  Neither of those work for me.  So here's my system.

First, I sort my coupons.  Since I usually have 5-6 sets of each insert (coupon insert sources is another topic), I take each insert and put all identical pages together and staple it.  I go through each stapled group and cut out the coupons I know I'll use and set them aside to put in my coupon pouch that goes to the store with me.

The stapled groups are then filed in a file folder with the date on the tab (in pencil because I reuse the folders over and over).  The file folder is then put in a hanging file with all the other coupon insert files.

Why do I do these steps?

So many of the blogs that I follow will give coupon match ups for items on sale, listing the coupons by date and insert.  For example $1/2 Peter Pan Peanut Butter 8/1 SS (Smart Source).  If I like the final price, I then go to my coupon file and pull out that date. I flip through the stapled groups until I find the peanut butter coupon.  Sometimes, though, that coupon wasn't put in my paper (it's done by regions).  Fortunately, by having them organized by date, I'm not looking through the entire 3 inch stack.  (Yes it's probably that big but no, I haven't measured it.  Okay, okay, now you've got me curious.  I'm getting the ruler....  Well, what do you know?  It was 2 1/2 inches.)

If I'm looking for a coupon on a specific product, there are several free coupon databases out there.  I've used Coupon Mom and I believe Stretching a Buck now has one too.

Hope that gives you an idea for how to organize your coupon stash.  This method definitely works for me!  For more Works for Me Wednesday, check out We Are THAT Family.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Piano Lessons

Here's information about Piano Lessons....


Tuesdays at 4, 4:30, 5, and 5:30 pm
Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday at 1 pm, 1:30 pm, and 2:00 pm.

Piano Lesson Policies

1. Tuition is $40 for a 4 week session. Tuition is due the 1st scheduled lesson of each month unless other arrangements are made. Late tuition may be subject to a late charge or the time slot may be re-assigned to another student.

2. Makeup lessons may be available on a limited, infrequent basis. Students will not receive a discount for lessons they miss. Makeup lessons or a discount will be offered when the teacher is unavailable for a scheduled lesson.

3. Students are expected to practice regularly between lessons. Parents are highly encouraged to participate in practice times.

4. Students may discontinue lessons with a 2 week notice.

5. Students are expected to purchase their own music and additional supplies. The cost of books is not included in the monthly tuition. In order to obtain the correct music, students may request the teacher to obtain the music and the costs will be added to tuition for the month.

6. The preferred method is the Hal Leonard series. But other methods are acceptable.

7. Be sure to notify teacher prior to a missed lesson, as soon as you know you will not be attending your lesson.

8. If a check bounces, students will be required to pay for future tuition in cash.

9. A Spring Recital will be scheduled and all students will be asked to participate. If students are interested in participating in various festivals, we will make all efforts to make this possible.


Session dates are as follows:

Sept 1 – 30
Oct 1 – 31
Nov 1 – 27
Nov 28 – Dec 23
Session Break Dec 24 through Jan 2
Jan 3 – 31
Feb 1 – 28
Mar 1 – 31 (no lessons 3/20-27)
Apr 1 – 30
May 1 – 27

Work from Home decision

For about a year, I have not been working (for income).  Before that I have done several part-time work from home jobs and each has ended when it was supposed to.  The last one had had a lot of work which then basically ceased at the same time that we paid off our last debt.  It then trickled along and I ended up earning two small paychecks in 6 months.  6 months later, I decided it was time to officially resign.  Now we are just over 6 months after that and we are feeling a crunch in our budget.  Princess Naked Toes is starting Preschool so that is being added to our budget.  Her gymnastics also went up starting this month.  If you missed the hints from my last post, my husband just had a kidney stone zapped so now we have a large (to us) medical bill to pay out of our savings (Thank you Emergency Fund!) which means we need to rebuild our emergency fund.  Finally, through all our outings and activities this summer, many involving water, we have lost Princess Smiles-A-Lot's hearing aid and we must replace it ASAP.  If you are not aware, an inexpensive hearing aid will cost $1300.  With her hearing loss, we will not be getting the "cheap" hearing aid and hopefully will be able to get her an FM receiver so she can hear the teacher's voice directly in the hearing aid.  And this isn't factoring in that my husband's car needs some repair work equal to its value or a new-to-us vehicle.

I've considered several work at home jobs.  My dream job would be working with numbers (I'm a spreadsheet/paperwork addict - I know I'm strange) but haven't figured out how to find this kind of job from home or an office for the limited time I would have available.  I really don't want to spend the whole of the 2 hrs I have with both girls at school 4 days a week working.  Those two hours are already going quickly to errands, cleaning out projects and visiting teaching - maybe even some sewing projects that are waiting my attention.

So my husband and I have decided that I will start teaching piano lessons.  See this post for details on lessons.  I'm hoping to make just a couple hundred a month to ease the crunch, pay medical bills, and build back up our emergency fund.  I am so done with debt that I'm not comfortable with our emergency fund being as low as it's going to be very soon without a plan to build it back up.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Choosing a Health Insurance Plan

Except for the past 12 months, for most of our marriage, one or both of us have been employed by a large health system that provided decent HMO insurance.  We had a set copay for a visit to our Primary Care Physician and a slightly higher copay for specialists (and it required a referral).  We also had a set copay for an Urgent Care Visit and a copay for Emergency Room Visits.  Lab and radiology work was generally covered 100% (I can't recall ever paying anything for any lab work or radiology).

Then last June, my husband was "laid off" (it was termed laid off but there was no plan to have him return so really it was terminated).  We were blessed with a specified term of severance and we chose a COBRA option of that termination.

Then one year ago this week, my husband started a new job and we had to totally switch gears with our health insurance, including switching our care to the major competitor for his previous employer.  This has been a hard switch and we delayed switching physicians as long as we could.  We still miss our previous physicians, espeically our pediatrician and ENT/audiologists.  When we selected our healthplan, we selected the more expensive plan because it was closest to what we were used to AND was cheaper than what we'd been paying.  The hardest adjustment has been switching from an HMO mindset (all those set co-pays) to a PPO setting (with the benefit of being able to see a specialist without a referral - we don't even have to select a specific Primary Care Physician; we can change who we see at anytime without notifying anyone).

Just a 2 months later, we were having to re-select our insurance plan for the 2010 year as our new employer was adding a 3rd option for Healthcare.  The Premium PPO would be $236/month for our family.  The Value PPO was set at $95/month.  And then the new Consumer PPO plan would be FREE!  Oh how wonderful to think that we could not pay a monthly premium for health insurance!!

Fortunately, I LOVE LOVE LOVE spreadsheets and math.  I sat down and came up with a couple likely scenarios.  Love gets kidney stones every few years and it had been several years so odds were it could happen in 2010.  Princess Naked Toes is very adventurous so it was extremely likely in 2010 that she would end up in the ER or Urgent Care for some incident during an adventure.  My personal experience with my former PCP (who I had a love/hate relationship with) was that if I was sick or had a problem needing to be seen fairly quickly, he would be completely booked for a month out so I'd have to go to Urgent Care.  I estimated costs for those 3 likelihoods and then plugged in how much it would cost us under each of those three PPO plans.  Based on those numbers (our tendency to choose the Better over the Good and not buying the most expensive items), we selected the Value PPO.

In mid-July (2010), my husband started experiencing some severe pains which he self-diagnosed as a kidney stone.  After several weeks of painful days/nights followed by okay days, he was in enough pain that I was able to convince him to see a Urologist and we were blessed to find someone to see him in the office that day rather than an ER visit.  Under the Value PPO, we have a copay for office visits verses 80% after deductible for ER services.

That was a Monday.  He ended up having a CT Scan that afternoon, confirming a kidney stone that still had a LONG way to go to work it's way out.  Based on the stone's position and size, it was decided to do a lithotripsy that Friday.  Let me just say that I WAY under-estimated the costs for a kidney stone.

So today, I sat down with all of our claims information for 2010 and created a wonderful spreadsheet comparing how much we've paid this year to how much we would have had to pay with both the Premium plan and the Consumer Plan.  Now, I went ahead and calculated all 2010 monthly premiums into our costs so basically it's assuming, we have no more medical expenses.  So far, there is only a difference of $800 between the 3 plans with the Value Plan (the one we chose) having the lowest costs to us!! 

I've decided to keep the spreadsheet up to date with any future 2010 claims so that as we get to select for 2011, we'll be very educated on potential healthcare expenses in 2011 for each plan.  Of course, monthly premiums and coverages may change so I'll have to change the spreadsheet accordingly, but I already have the base numbers ready to go.

As you prepare to select your own insurance plan coverage, I strongly encourage you to come up with what is reasonable for your family to experience during that coverage period.  Include annual well-child exams, immunizations, glasses, a replacement hearing aid for the one that your family loses over the summer (oops - forgot to put that in our spreadsheet but I'll use the excuse that we haven't purchased the replacement yet), an ER visit for your own adventurous child, and maybe even an urgent care visit for the potential bike accident of your bike-riding spouse.  The hardest part is estimating costs and a call to the local hospital may not be helpful because they'll won't know the specifics.  So estimate HIGH.

Good luck!

Monday, August 9, 2010

Making up for Saturday

So to make up for Saturday, I've been posting things we don't need on Craigslist this morning.  I still need to post my old dishes since that's what we actually replaced.  My goal is to make at least as much as we spent on the new dishes (since I did get such a great deal on them... more below on that).  So far, I've posted a pack that attaches to a bike frame, our collection of Disney movies on VHS (our VCR died this spring so we haven't been able to watch them; plus whenever anyone wants to watch a movie, they always go to the DVDs first anyway), a spiderman costume (which I bought on clearance to use as a gift or for when friends come over to play but it's just sat in the closet for almost a year), a toddler swing (Princess Naked Toes likes a big girl swing now), and a snowsuit.  I still have a few more items to go add.

As I took the stickers off our new plates and put them in the dishwasher, I discovered that regular price on those plates is $9.99!  So I got really nice plates for about 1/3rd of their regular cost.  I had forgotten too that those purchases came with the Kohl's dollars which I'll be heading back to Kohl's to use at the end of this week.  Maybe I'll look for serving dishes to go with my new dishes... or a little something for me.

And an update on using the new plates, Saturday's dinner was definitely smaller because I used the smaller plates.  But Sunday night, my husband opted for paper plates because he had filled the dishwasher with bowls when making chocolate chip cookies.  Kind of defeats the fewer calories from dinner the night before though.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Utility bills

I was chatting with my brother's mother-in-law the other day.  (Is there a term for what that makes her to me?  No idea.  But we get along so the only term I can think of for her is friend.)  Her house is a little smaller than mine (I just looked it up online and it's 200 sq ft smaller).  But her total utility bills (gas, electric, water and sewer) are less than half of mine!  One advantage she has is large trees all around her home providing lots of shade (meaning she doesn't need as much air conditioning to cool it down).  But more than half!  So now I'm on a mission to figure out why our gas, electric, water and sewer are so much.  I'm getting together with some friends who are willing to share the intimate details of their utilities so that maybe we can figure some things out.  Maybe MeeMaw (what my nephews call their grandmother) likes it hot in the summer and cold in the winter (I like it cold in the winter though).  Maybe she sits in the dark.  I'm also curious to see if I can find the bills from before I was a SAHM.  Is it because I'm home all day, using lights, more a/c, etc?

We've been talking for a few years about investing in more insulation in the attic, and adding it to the crawlspace.  Maybe this is the difference?

If you're interested in participating in our "research", feel free to chime in.  If you don't live in the same area, we won't be able to compare cost but we can compare usage (comparing therms or kilowatts, or gallons of water).  I'll share the results and our efforts as we go.

Not a good example today

Just had to share, I was not the best example today of being a frugal shopper.  Well, in some ways I was.  We got some great deals.  But my best advice, to myself and others, for being frugal - don't go shopping.  And today, we went shopping.  My next best advice, and it may not apply to you but it definitely applies to me - shop without your husband.  Whenever my husband is with me, we tend to spend more, including if that means going over budget.

This weekend is Tax Free weekend for back to school.  Our city is not participating so it's cutting out the state taxes, which is about half the tax bill.  Now for me, this generally does not impact us because we don't buy a lot at one time.  And even on a $100 bill, what's the difference between 7% and 3.5% - a whole $3.50!  Is that enough to make me spend this weekend rather than next?  What if next weekend, the items I want are 10% cheaper than this weekend?  So I generally don't plan around the tax break.

But today I wanted to go get the girls a back to school outfit.  Kohl's was generous enough to send me a 15% off your entire purchase coupon (good through the whole weekend so you can use it multiple times).  If you spend $100 or more, it's 20% of.  Combining my coupon with the tax break, and a back to school budget, a canceled vacation due to a sick Princess Naked Toes (she's better now), and I couldn't resist a trip.

While we were trying on a million outfits (a slight exaggeration but it didn't feel like it), my husband called.  He got off work early for an x-ray (a follow-up on a kidney stone) and the x-ray was right next door to Kohl's.  So he came over and joined us.  He approved the outfits we had picked out for the girls (one each plus a few shirts for Princess Smiles-A-Lot).  Then we started our way over to shoes.  We made a brief pit stop at the dorm room decor stuff.  We picked up two clip on lamps that the girls have been needing for their beds so that one can read when the other wants the light out. 

We detoured through the housewares, looking at dishes.  We've been talking about getting new plates - smaller ones, to help us with our portion control.  So we browsed through (I had no intention of actually purchasing but just getting a feel for what he would be okay with and what he wouldn't - normally what I like, he doesn't).  As we browsed, he held up a salad plate.  I liked it.  He liked it.  It was on clearance.

They only had 2 of that one.  They had 3 of another one that coordinated.  We took a plate to the kiosk to see if they had more of the one we really liked online.  Nothing.  We ended up with the 5 plates.

The plates took us above the $100 mark so we saved a few extra dollars by going from 15% off to 20% off.  That's a great excuse right?

Then we headed home.  And I wondered if Kohl' would actually have the plates since the kiosk didn't.  Guess what?!  They did!  Here's one thing I discovered about this set - you don't get to pick the pattern.  There are 4 patterns in it, and you just tell them how many you want.  Since we'd already spent so much (I know some of you are laughing but I don't normally spend that much at one time unless it's my stock up buying at Sam's Club or Christmas), we decided to go for it.  We ordered 7 more plates so we have 12, plus we ordered 8 bowls.

My coupon worked online too.  Kohl's will let you use up to 2 promo codes at the same time. So I did an internet search and found a code for free shipping over $50.  I added a eco-friendly shopping bag for 78 cents to my shopping cart to hit $50.  After several attempts, I discovered that I could only use both if my after 15% off cost was above $50.  So I did some browsing, thinking about things we've been saying we need, and discovered a pair of Chaps pillows for $9.  I added that, deleted the shopping bag (not needed).  And voila, I got the 15% off and the free shipping so I basically paid $1 to free for the pillows.

Or to justify purchasing dishes that weren't truly a NEED, maybe I should apply those savings to the dishes and say I bought pillows for $9 and my dishes were less?

Curious about our new dishes?  Here's the one that first caught our eye.

I really like square plates but my husband informed me today he doesn't.  Guess it's a good thing he was there.  This pattern is on the other 3 plates we bought today.
I don't know what will come in our package from Kohl's.  But here are the other two patterns.
And in case you want some too, here they are at Kohl's.

I promise to go back to my normally frugal, penny-pinching ways tomorrow.  I guess my back-to-school shopping is done.  Dishes are back to school, right?

Thursday, August 5, 2010

BlogHop 2010

Hi!  Welcome Bloghoppers to Mothers Who Know!

Today, I'm participating in Pensieve's Blog Hop '10 in honor of BlogHer.

I started Mothers Who Know as a place to share ideas (and hopefully gain some ideas from others) on how to live providently.  Provident living is using our resources, including time, money, and our stuff, wisely.  I participate in Works for Me Wednesday often (but not every week) sharing things that are working for our family, including ways that we teach our daughters about the Gospel of Jesus Christ. 

You will also find recipes that my family loves.  One of my goals with the recipes is to identify recipes that are naturally gluten-free that my family will eat.  This means recipes that don't require special ingredients to be gluten-free.

I am a stay at home mom.  After many years in the workplace, I started staying home shortly before our oldest daughter was born.  Since then, I take the approach that stretching my husband's income is my "job".  With that approach, we've been able to make it on one income (with some part-time work at home assistance periodically) and survived a summer-long unemployment in 2009.

So look around and hope to see you around again soon!