Tuesday, October 30, 2012

A New Washer on a Shoestring Budget

So for the longest time we've had a hand-me-down washer from Benny's sister from her college days. It was totally serviceable, but we knew with the baby coming and using cloth diapers, we would want something that had a higher capacity and was more energy efficient. (We had planned to sell our old washer to a friend, but ended up donating it to the ReStore instead, so we'll get a tax credit.) Since we hang dry most of our laundry, the dryer we had was totally worth keeping and we didn't feel the need to upgrade.

Of course, Benny broke out his Mr. Consumer Reports mode and we narrowed down our choices to this lovely model by Samsung. We chose this one for a variety of reasons, but primarily because it was a top loader (something that was necessary for the configuration of our laundry area) and because it had excellent energy and water efficiency. Even with this being the washer we wanted, we knew the original purchase price was out of our budget, so we were hoping to find a sale.

We went to Lowe's to purchase our washer because we had been able to cash in some credit card points for Lowe's gift card money, about $500. We also had some birthday and anniversary gift cards stashed away that we put towards the purchase, as well as a Lowe's coupon we found online. We figured these combined with a sale would allow us to purchase the washer for maybe $100 out of pocket. The day we went to Lowe's to check out the washer and talk with the sales clerk was the week before Labor Day, when we knew some sales would be going on. When we talked with the sales guy and explained what model we were looking at and asked if he'd had any experience with them, he said the same thing we'd read online, "They're great machines. A few people think they don't use enough water, but generally this means they aren't loading the machine according to the manufacturer's instructions." Then, he said, "Hold on a sec..." as he walked over to the scratch and dent section. At that moment, there was a gleam in both of our eyes; we knew we were on to something!

And boy, were we ever! It turned out that they had two of the exact model we wanted in the returns section for the exact reason he had mentioned. The prices were incredibly reduced, even from the Labor Day sale price, and the previous customers had only had the machines a week before returning them. So, when the sales guy said we could have the washer for $700, we took him up on it. This meant that we were able to use our gift cards (but not our coupon, which we saved for another purchase) and credit card rewards to get our washer for free!

Having had our washer for a few months now, we can say with all confidence that we love it! It has a much higher capacity than our old one and allows us to do fewer loads of laundry during the week, and the spin cycle on it is incredible. Our laundry now dries in about half the time it used to when we hang it. The bonus: it has a glass lid so you can watch the whole thing while it runs, and it sings to you at the end of the cycle! We were like little kids watching cartoons the first time we ran a load of clothes through.

So, that's how we got our washer for free. Have you found any major deals in the scratch and dent section, or scored an appliance for free? We'd love to hear about it!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Saving on Maternity and Baby Clothes

I resisted maternity clothes for as long as I comfortably could. Why? They're so darn expensive! (Also, I think I was in denial for a while that I might gain 25+ pounds with this pregnancy.) Fortunately, I found a few ways to get around the maternity clothing market prices.

First, I decided early on that I could make do with a few of my regular draw string skirts and cardigans, if I only had camisoles or t-shirts to wear under them. This has been a great strategy so far and wearing layers means I can stay comfortable throughout the day at work or at home on the weekends.

I bought a few things on the clearance racks at the Gap Outlet that were just one size larger than I might normally buy, or were cut so that they could work as early maternity wear. I purchased these with gift card money, so they were not out of pocket expenses. Then, I found the local semi-annual children's consignment sale where they also sell maternity clothes. Here I picked up a few items that I thought could be staples throughout the year: brown pants (that of course needed to be hemmed), a grey dress shirt that doesn't need ironing, and a white collared sleeveless shirt I can wear alone or under a jacket/cardigan. I made it my mantra to try to purchase the fewest items possible and have them be the most versatile.

Then, my cousin and college roommate came through big time. My cousin sent me a few nursing camisoles that have been great for early maternity wear and worked well under cardigans, etc. for school. My college roommate brought me three bags full of maternity clothes, some from her sister who is just about my size. Her sister is an optometrist, so there were lots of nice professional clothes in those bags that worked well for teaching and are really comfortable. There were also several nicer t-shirts that I could wear under my regular cardigans and jackets (if I wear them open, of course), so these rounded out my wardrobe.

Occasionally, I'll have a friend bring me some random thing they found, which has also been nice. For instance, I have a wonderful friend who works at the local women's shelter and she brought me some maternity clothes that were donated to them (they don't take clothing donations; it's just too much for them to have to weed through, so they always take them to GoodWill anyway). In that bag was a wonderful blue cardigan I can wear, and a super cute plum colored dress that has become Benny's favorite "hot mama" dress when I wear it with boots.

Do I still look longingly at some of my favorite outfits I can no longer wear right now (like my absolute favorite camel colored cable knit sweater)? Of course. Is it fun to pull out something new from those bags or hangers and feel good about how I look for the day? Absolutely. Do I love that I've spent less than $20 on maternity clothes? Totally, because it means that it frees up our budget to do more for the baby.

But we haven't had to spend anything on baby clothes, thanks to the generosity of several friends. My college roommate also brought me tons of clothes from her son (they don't plan to have more kids, and it seems her sister just keeps having girls) and has promised more to come when we're ready. Another fabulous friend has two boys who are four and two. She's brought me tubs and tubs full of clothes. These have been really fun to go through because I remember her boys wearing many of the outfits. Because her boys were born in November and May, we've got most of the seasons and sizes covered, so it looks like we'll be able to survive on hand-me-down clothes for this little one for quite a while. Which, of course, allows us to both live green and save green.

I'm sure that people won't be able to resist some cute little thing they see in a store for this boy to wear. But we really hope that by introducing him to the idea of second hand clothing from birth, and knowing that we do the same, he won't feel out of place as he gets older and will recognize that we're able to do more for others when we spend less on clothes.

How have you saved on maternity or baby clothes? Or have you pinched other areas of your wallet in order to buy what you love? Here's to living green and saving green on the family wardrobe!

Updates and Apologies

Wow, so it's been ridiculously too long since my last post... six months?! Crazy! Not that it's an excuse, but we've had a lot going on here. So, a few quick updates:

1. We're expecting a baby boy! So, I'm just now feeling up to doing all my normal stuff now that I'm over the makes-you-feel-gross-all-day nausea (but nothing much worse than that) and the few weeks accompanied by hormone induced migraines. Now, I'm just exhausted after every day at work.

2. We hosted a wonderful Duke Divinity School intern over the summer who has become a fabulous addition to our family. He loved Lavender from the start, even if she didn't feel the same way, and he was such a blessing to us and our church family. He shared our love of cooking and good food, which was a huge plus, and helped cook meals whenever he was free. We had the pleasure of hosting his family from Washington state last week and discovered, not surprisingly, that they are just as wonderful as he is.

3. Mom's been busy with building her house and making all the decisions that go along with that, and now she's in the home stretch. So, we've been trying to be good sounding boards without putting in too much of our opinion. And of course, Benny has been the resident paint expert in that process.

So, the next several posts you read will probably have more to do with getting things ready for this wonderful baby boy and knocking things off our to-do list before he arrives on the scene. We've already tackled several projects, which I'll probably highlight in later posts, but here's the list of things we've already managed to accomplish:

1. Purchase a new washing machine with a budget goal of $800 (We managed to do it for free with gift cards--more on that in a later post)
2. Purchase and install a new storm door on the side door with a budget goal of $200 (We did this for about $70 after gift cards and coupons)
3. Purchase a new rug for the kitchen/living room to help ground the dining area a bit more with a budget goal of $80 (We bought this at the Capel sale for $99, and ended up moving the living room rug to the dining area)
4. Mosaic the dresser top of the ReStore dresser we applied the paintable wallpaper to earlier in the year for the nursery
5. Price out the cost of built-ins for the upstairs landing and have those built and installed or DIY (we opted to hire a contractor and he's in the process of doing those now)
6 Purchase and install under the cabinet lighting in the kitchen (we purchased the lights from Daily Steals, a deal website that Benny subscribes to, for much less than we saw them at Lowe's for and have been really happy with them)

Here's the list of things left to accomplish:
1. Paint kitchen chairs
2. Paint bed frames for nursery
3. Finish the stone patio we started this summer and got side tracked on
4. Purchase and install blinds on the other window in the nursery
5. Purchase and install programmable thermostats for the house (we'll probably purchase these during Energy Star weekend or from Costco)
6. Paint the upstairs closet doors that still have the factory primer on them
7. Rewire and paint wall lamps for the nursery (this should happen this week if the repair kits we ordered come in time)
8. Sell the desk that's currently in the nursery to help pay for the updates to the nursery (hopefully we can do this through word of mouth or maybe a Craigslist ad) and make room for the crib
9. Make some wall art for the nursery and figure out where to hang the art that is currently in the room (it's street art from my trip to Italy in college, so we want to keep them up somewhere)
10. Make a duvet cover that's jungle themed for the comforter that's currently on the twin bed in the nursery
11. Would be nice if the budget allows to reupholster the barrel-backed chair that we got from my grandmother's for the nursery. It will make a great nursing chair, though it's not a rocker.

Of course there's all the little stuff to do like the deep cleaning I'd like to accomplish (mopping, cleaning trim and windows, cleaning the appliances, etc.) but we'll get to that hopefully. We have some friends who have offered to help out with that over the holiday break or to come after the baby arrives to help with those projects, so at some point these will be done.

So, what about you? Are you in fall baking mode or enjoying the cooler weather to get some things done outside? I'd love to hear from you!