Friday, October 21, 2011

Saving Money on Bills


Did you know there is a very easy way to save money on your month to month bills? I saved this from my deleted blog. Originally written on April 16, 2010.
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I'm very excited to share this with you!!

Eric and I pretty much live on bare minimum. We do, however, NEED cell phones, internet, and (very) basic cable. (I'm the one who needs the tv... Eric probably wouldn't even care if we had it or not.)

A few weeks ago I called our cable and internet provider because even though we are pretty much on the cheapest plan available, I wanted to see if I could save some more money. We are paying $9.99/month for basic cable, already discounted from $17.99/mo due to a promotion that was going on during the switch to digital tv. BUT we were paying $44.99 for our internet, which to me is crazy. I found out we weren't on the cheapest internet plan so I talked to Eric about cutting back. He wasn't willing to downgrade on speed though because he is a gamer/ we watch movies online/ whatever. I called our provider and after talking to one person for less than five minutes, I found out they had a special going on: The same internet we currently have for $29.99/mo.

Total cable and internet savings: $23/ mo

Today I called our cell phone service provider to do the same thing. We're currently on a 550 minute family plan for $59.99/mo and have 1000 text messages for $10/mo per line. That equals $79.99/ mo total (not including fees and taxes which somehow adds another $16/mo onto our bill.) The first person I talked to said he could save me money by going to unlimited text messages... and it will only cost a few dollars more a month than I already spend. He wasn't quite understanding my reason for calling. Then he told me that I already have the cheapest plan: 550 shared minutes for $59.99/mo. In fact, they didn't even offer that plan anymore. The cheapest plan now is 700 shared minutes for $69.99/mo. I asked him if I could talk to the customer retention department. He happily transferred me and after several more minutes the representative had lowered the text message part of the bill to $7.50/mo per line while increasing us to unlimited text messages! He said it was an old promo code that his department has access to. Then after several more minutes he found he was able to decrease the amount I was paying for the base plan to $49.99/mo while keeping our plan the same. The only catch was that I had to increase our contract by two years starting today, so instead of our contract being over in July 2011, it ends in April 2012. Which is fine by me because...

Total cell phone savings: $15/mo

Exciting right?!

Total savings a year on internet, cable, and cell phone service because I took a little time out of my day and made a couple of calls: $456

P.S. A while back I realized I was paying a crazy amount for electricity. I did a little digging and found that our current contract for a lower price had ended, and instead of letting me know our electricity provider raised our prices. I signed into our account online and within minutes had committed to a two year contract, thus lowering our price of electricity.


If anyone out there has tips for saving money on bills (or anything else), please share in the comments section!



photo source

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Chocolate Peanut Butter Parfait


Serve in 12 Mini Cordials/Parfaits. (I served in 12 Mini Bowls.)
  • ¼ cup butter, melted
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 ½ cups finely crushed chocolate wafers or graham crackers (I used chocolate Teddy Grahams)
  • ½ cup chocolate chips (I used mini chocolate chips)
  • ¼ cup finely chopped peanuts
  • ½ cup chocolate syrup
  • 1 8-oz package cream cheese, softened (I used "1/3 less fat" cream cheese)
  • ½ cup peanut butter
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 1 8 oz-container whipped topping or fresh-made whipping cream (I used Cool Whip)
  • Chocolate shavings or chopped nuts for garnish, optional (I used Cool Whip, chopped peanuts, and mini chocolate chips for garnish.)
Combine melted butter, honey and crushed wafers in a mixing bowl. Fill each glass with one heaping teaspoon of wafer mixture, about a ½”, pack down slightly.
Add a few chocolate chips and some chopped peanuts on top of the cookie crumbs. Drizzle with the chocolate syrup.
In a bowl, combine cream cheese and peanut butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar, milk and vanilla, mix together until well-blended. Gently fold in whipped topping or whipped cream. Carefully spoon mixture into glasses. (I actually spooned the mixture into a baggie, cut the corner out, and piped it into the glasses.)
Garnish with chocolate shavings or add another drizzle of chocolate syrup and some chopped peanuts. Refrigerate a couple of hours until set.

Eric and I bought these little "tasting party" dishes at Pier 1 for fun one day. I especially love the little spoons! We went to pier1.com and found this recipe, along with a few other recipes I pinned on Pinterest.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Lucky Us

My mom's birthday was last month, and I wanted to make something kind of sentimental. I scrolled through my Pinterest boards and found something right away... Except I knew I wanted to make it in a picture frame instead of a key chain.


The first two pennies are from the years my parents were born. The one with the heart is the year they were married. And the last three pennies are from the years my sisters and I were born.
I spent a long time fiddling with the paper in the frame, and I'm still not convinced that I love it. I hot glued the pennies onto the paper, so hopefully they stay put. Oh, and I shined the pennies a little by letting them soak in Coke for a few hours... and then scrubbing them with a baking soda paste.

Craft inspired by a picture from Pinterest

Friday, October 7, 2011

Chunky Vegetable Soup

I went to the grocery store the other day and got a ton of vegetables. I don't really know what I was thinking because there are only two of us. Esp celery... We NEVER finish all of the celery. So, in an effort to cook something healthy and use up some of the vegetables, I re-found this recipe on my Pinterest boards. It's not really cool enough outside for soup yet, but I made it anyway. Take that, Texas Fall! Next time, I would add more noodles... and Eric would take them out all together. So I guess it depends who makes it on how it turns out next time. Also, I used a huge onion and it was ALMOST too much. If you don't love onion watch out on how much you use. 


Chunky Vegetable Soup
1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
2 stalks of celery, chopped
3 carrots, chopped
1 tsp dried thyme
kosher salt and fresh ground pepper
2 x cans of chopped tomatoes (14oz)
1 1/2 litres of water
2-3 chicken bouillon cubes
1 cup of pasta (we used bow tie because we had an open box of it)
In a large sauce pan over medium heat add the oil, onion, carrots, celery, garlic, thyme and salt and pepper and cook until just soft. Add the tomatoes, water, and bouillon and simmer for 15 minutes. Add the pasta and cook for another 8-10 min.

I adapted this recipe from butterflyfoodie.blogspot.com via Pinterest

Thursday, October 6, 2011

Unwanted Gift Cards?

Did you know there are ways to sell or trade in your unwanted gift cards? This is a post I was able to save from my deleted blog. Originally written on May 19, 2010.
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I found this through $5 Dinners, and I'm so glad I did!

 

Eric and I had $50 in Starbucks gift cards, and we've had some of the cards as long as 4 years! We don't go to Starbucks... We don't even drink coffee. (Well, Eric sort of does... and I know they offer more than just coffee at Starbucks.) So I figured I could trade the unused gift cards for money we can use!

The minimum card limit that Gift Card Rescue takes is $15. (Two of our cards were $15 and two were only $10. But that was okay with Eric because he figures he's going to go to Starbucks one day and use those cards.) It's really simple. It only takes a few minutes. It's awesome!

We opted for the Amazon gift card because you get a little more than if you want cash back. (But you can get a check in the mail too.) Eric has an Amazon Kindle, and we figured we could find something we need on Amazon.com.

They suggest you get insurance or tracking on the gift cards you send them, but I decided it wasn't worth spending $12 since they were gift cards that had been sitting there unused for so long. Also, we were only getting $25.20 back so I didn't want to spend half of that by insuring my envelope.

I just got an email with an Amazon gift card code, and Eric has already applied it to his account.

Easy peasy, and a free $25.20!


Photo source:

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Step 1 to a Greener Swiffer Wet Jet

I love my Swiffer Wet Jet. But I hate how much the solution costs, and I hate that if my dog licks the wet floor... she gets the runs.  =/  TMI?  And I clean everywhere else in my house with green cleaners... So why do I still mop with chemicals?

There's a new mop out like the Swiffer Wet Jet but you can put your own cleaning solution in it. I almost bought one, but then I remembered we're poor. And I realized that throwing out a perfectly good mop for a new one isn't exactly "green." So, I went to the internet and googled to try and figure out a way to put my green cleaner into the Swiffer since there's no easy way to just screw the cap off. There are a ton of ways including drilling a hole and adding a washer and a plug and blah, blah, blah. Then I found a super easy way! I "pinned" the idea and waited until my Swiffer solution ran out.



All you have to do is boil the bottle to soften the plastic teeth around the cap. Our hot water at this apartment is super hot, so Eric suggested just holding the solution bottle under the water to see if it was hot enough to soften the plastic without having to boil water. After about a minute of holding it under the hot water, I tried to twist the top off. Nothing. I had Eric try and he got it! Yay! It also suggests to cut the little plastic teeth off so next time you don't have to soften the plastic... but I figured that was more trouble than it's worth. Esp since just holding it under hot water did the trick for me.

After I had the top off, I rinsed it out really well and peeled the labels off. I wrote on the bottle just because I wanted to. And so Eric knows how to fill it up if he ever wants to. I just filled it halfway with distilled white vinegar and the rest of the way with water. Then I added about 15 drops of lavender essential oil.

After less than 5 minutes of work, I now have a cheap, healthy cleaning solution in my Swiffer Wet Jet.

*UPDATE* Well, this didn't turn out as cool as I'd hoped. If you have a better experience let me know. All of my vinegar solution leaked out within a week.

I found this at lifehacker.com via Pinterest

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Green Cleaning

aka Safe Cleaning

I wrote this on August 30, 2009, and I found to share again. A few notes:
1. I think I have the same bottle of lavender essential oil, and I still use it to clean all the time! Well, maybe I've bought two?
2. The liquid soap I use is the blue Dawn dish soap. It does an AMAZING job against soap scum and other grime.
3. Once a month (or every other month) I clean with bleach and other harsh chemicals. But every other time I use these recipes for a safer clean. (Except when I have raw meat in the kitchen. To be safe, I clean up after that with a bleach spray.)
4. I use the Cleaning Spray to clean counter tops, stove, refrigerator, and windows. I use the Cleaning Frosting to clean the kitchen and bathroom sinks and the bathtub. I Steam Clean my microwave the same way I did when I wrote this post. I haven't tried the Green Carpet Spot Remover again... but I haven't had any stains to clean up... Or I would have. I'm most lazy when it comes to green cleaning the toilet. Most of the time I still use commercial toilet cleaner with bleach.
5. I edited it today to add the Dryer Spray and Mop Solution.

I still LOVE all of these cleaning products! They are cheap, healthy, and do a great job keeping my home clean!
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Yesterday we cleaned our apartment. I've been reading a lot lately on the toxins and 'bad stuff' in household cleaning products. (You can get pretty much any book on green cleaning or look it up online, and it will tell you what I'm talking about.)

I made a bunch of green cleaning concoctions yesterday. I'm SO happy with them I'm going to give you the recipes. =)

First I took a spray bottle and added distilled white vinegar. I know what you're thinking. Vinegar? To clean? Yep. It's high level of acidity kills most germs, bacteria, and even mold! It stinks though so I added lavender essential oil, which besides smelling good is an antiseptic and an anti-fungal. I used this to wipe down my counters and fridge. (And the inside of my trash can.)

Cleaning Spray
a spray bottle full of distilled white vinegar
15 drops lavender essential oil

Mix ingredients in a spray bottle by swirling the bottle. This will save for a long time if you keep in a cool, dark place.


I know it's a tiny bottle! And it's $6. But I went to Hobby Lobby and used a 40% off coupon. Plus it will last me a long time.

I also filled up another spray bottle with water and vinegar for wiping down counters and to use instead of a dryer sheet. I read that you can soak a wash rag with vinegar and hair conditioner to make your own dryer sheets. I did this awhile but I hated that my hands always got gross wringing out the rag before I tossed it in the dryer. Plus I didn't want to have to keep buying conditioner. (Not even the cheap stuff!) So I tried spraying about 10 squirts of the vinegar/ water into the dryer onto the wet clothes before turning the dryer on. It does a great job as anti-static and fabric softener.

Dryer Spray
1 part distilled white vinegar
3 parts water 

I also mop with vinegar and lavender. 

Mop Solution
1 part water
1 part distilled white vinegar
15 drops lavender essential oil
 
Next I made a carpet stain cleaner. I made it up, dumped some on the stains, rubbed it in with my fingers for thirty seconds, and left it to sit for 2 hours. I came back and was really worried that I should have 'tested it in an inconspicuous place' to make sure it didn't harm my carpet. The whole wet spot was dark, and I was scared I had made the stains worse. I got a towel and pressed it on the spot to dry up the solution. The more I pressed, the more came up in the towel! Once it was completely dry, I vacuumed over the spot to make sure I had gotten everything. I WISH I WOULD HAVE TAKEN A BEFORE PICTURE. Oh well. The stains are gone. Would you like the recipe?

Green Carpet Spot Remover
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar
1 tablespoon salt

Stir in the salt until it has dissolved.


Then I decided to clean the dreaded (disgusting) microwave. I'd put this off longer than I should have because you can't use chemicals in the microwave, so I used to just scrub and scrub and scrub with water. But no more! I made this solution, microwaved it on high in a glass bowl for 5 minutes, waited for the bowl to cool down before I moved it, dipped a cleaning cloth in some of the solution, and WIPED the microwave clean! Then I wiped it down with some clean water. Amazing!

Steam Clean Your Microwave
1 cup water
1/4 cup distilled white vinegar

Stir both ingredients into a microwave safe bowl.

This another TRULY amazing product. It was time to wash the bathtub. This is the one I was sure I would have to use more elbow grease than I would if I used something with bleach in it. (And I had to use a lot of elbow grease with bleach!) I turned the water on long enough to get the bathtub wet, put the cleaning 'frosting' on a washcloth, and easily scrubbed the soap scum and other grime away. I was so shocked! Then I rinsed.

Cleaning Frosting
1/2 cup baking soda
2 to 3 tablespoons castile soap or liquid detergent
15 drops lavender essential oil

Pour the baking soda into a bowl. Slowly add soap, mixing with a fork until you reach the consistency of frosting. Mix in lavender essential oil.
FYI: This keeps for a long time. It dries out a little but still does a great job cleaning.


Two staples for cooking or cleaning!


Last but not least, Fizzy Toilet Scrub.
1 tablespoon castile or liquid soap
1/3 cup baking soda
1/3 cup distilled white vinegar
8 drops lavender essential oil

Squirt soap into toilet, douse with baking soda, drop lavender oil, and pour in vinegar. Let it fizz for 2 to 3 minutes and then scrub and flush.

So I know this was A LONG post. But wasn't it worth it? Do you have any secrets on keeping a clean house without using harsh chemicals? Please share!