Proverbs 22:7

The rich rule over the poor, and the borrower is slave to the lender.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

"I have no idea what I want to be when I grow up"

Behold, a post on a message board I frequent.

I am 28 years old, male
married, 3 kids (3, 21 months, 1 month) 
I was active duty military 
now I am in the reserves 
I am full time in seminary (masters level theological education) 
we live off the GI bill, monthly drill pay, and what I make part-time working security about 2,100/month 
I have 2.5 years left of the GI bill, after that I have no idea what I am going to do 
I have never prepared, pursued, or interviewed for a "real job" 
I am interested in real estate 
I have no idea what I will do in 2.5 years

After several questions and responses from other users, we find out that this guy has no desire whatsoever to be a pastor. Mmmkay, so why are you in masters level seminary? His response was

my entering seminary was a condition for me to get out of the Army early 
I am a chaplain candidate in the Army Reserve 
at the completion of my degree I will be qualified to be a US Army Chaplain 
if I do that I would most likely join the Reserves 
I still need a "9-5" 
I have no interest in becoming a "pastor"

My first thought was that this guy, bless his heart, found a way to scam his way out of his military obligation early. But I think there's a hole in his story somewhere, because usually to qualify for those kind of programs, you have to commit to serving a certain amount of time. I mean, I got out of the Navy 3 months early so I could start college in August rather than having to wait until January, but it wasn't on the wings of a special program to make me more valuable to the navy.... it just saved them 3 months worth of giving me a paycheck when my ship was decommissioning and they would have placed me somewhere temporarily anyway.

But besides all of that....I'm really interested in the fact that this guy is living on/using his GIBill to learn a skill trade that he *might* only use 1 weekend a month. That would be fine and good if you could live off the army reserves paycheck you would earn, but last time I checked, a reservist paycheck is only a few hundred bucks, depending on your rank. Why in the world would you fluff around for 2.5 years to learn a trade you have no desire to use, when you could be using that time to learn skills that will help you support your family in the long run?

This is not the first time I've heard of a veteran who didn't use his benefits wisely. Sure, he served, he earned it and can use it how he sees fit, but he's going to be in for a reality shock if he doesn't figure out what he wants to be when he grows up.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Extreme Couponing: Sorority House Style (Part 3)

I picked up dishwasher pacs and trash bags at Sams Club tonight. I looked over the weekend at the prices at Target and Dollar General for these items, and thought I was going to get a pretty decent deal if I had gone with either of those options. However, Sam's Club had the best deal in the end.

My budget for trash bags was $52.00 for 400 bags, which calculates out to $0.13 per bag. At Target, I found a way to get drawstring bags for $0.11 each, or tie flap bags for just under $0.07 each. I was told to go for best value, but I had to get a second opinion before I did anything else. For me personally, best value trash bags = least expensive. On the other hand, a college student may think the best value includes the convenience of drawstrings. After consulting with my contact, I was told to do whatever I felt was best....

Today, I got lucky. I went to Sams Club to check out the prices. They had their store brand, Members Mark, drawstring trash bags in packs of 150, for $10.68 (after tax). This came out to $0.071 per bag. I figured that THIS was the best value. Drawstring bags at the approximate price I had found for the tie flap bags. Yeah, they aren't name brand, but for goodness sake, it's trash bags. I bought 3 packages for a total of $32.04 after tax.

The next item I bought was dishwasher packs. The list originally asked for the dishwasher liquid that you squirt into the compartment. I personally do not like this liquid because I think it's easy to become wasteful with it, annnnnd, it's way over priced. So I decided to go with dishwasher packs. I estimated that the dishwasher would need to be run once per day. This may need to be re-evaluated, but for purposes of shopping, I had a goal of purchasing around 365 packs.

I had a budget of $72.00 for dishwasher liquid. I converted this to the packs so $72/365 packs = $0.19 per pack. This is the low side of "normal" retail price. The Finish brand packs run about $0.19 each, where as the Cascade packs run around $0.24 each.

Sams Club had Cascade in packs of 115 for $19.96, or slightly more than 0.17 each. This was under budget, but I wanted to do better. Finish brand were in packs of 90 for $12.98, or slightly more than $0.14  each. I still wanted to do better. Plus, the advantage to Cascade versus Finish is that Finish packs are individually wrapped, which means you have to take them out of the plastic wrap before plopping them in the dishwasher. The Cascade ones go in as they are. I currently use Finish at home right now, because they were the most affordable option the last time I bought for myself....but I HATE the plastic wrap. I knew the these college students would not like it. Sooooo, I looked at the Members Mark brand, which was comparable to Cascade. Same type of packaging as Cascade, but came in packs of 110 for $12.88, or $13.78 after tax - This came out to less than $0.13 per pack. BINGO!

My only remaining dilemma with the dishwasher detergent was that I either needed to buy 3 boxes totalling 330 (35 less than the 365 I wanted) or buy 4 packs, which would put me at 440, or 75 over my target. I decided to err on the conservative side today and only go with 3. I can always go back for a 4th pack later if I need to. My total for 3 packs was $41.34.

So my shopping trip today resulted in 450 garbage bags, and 330 dishwasher packs for $73.38. My budget was $52+$72 = $124.00. I came in under budget by $50.62. Whoop Whoop! This under budget stuff is DEFINITELY going to help when I start going for the items that are more difficult to meet the 50% of retail target that was assigned to me. I'm working on the easy stuff for now... Will tackle those more difficult items later on.

So as a recap so far, here are the items I've purchased, and a breakdown of how far under budget I am:

Item Quantity Estimated Retail Budget(50%) Actual With Tax Final Comments
Toilet Paper 104 rolls $72.00 $36.00 $28.89 27 megarolls = 108 regular rolls bought
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 400 Bags $104.00 $52.00 $32.04 450 Trash Bags bought
Dishwasher Liquid 24 Bottles/365 packs $144.00 $72.00 $41.34 330 packs bought
Kleenex 12 Boxes $18.00 $9.00 $9.63 8 Family boxes = 14 regular boxes bought
Totels $338.00 $169.00 $111.90 $57.10 under budget, or $226.10 under estimated retail

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Extreme Couponing: Sorority House Style (Part 2)

Well, CVS was a bust today. The 30% coupon I had was only good on non-sale items, and the only other coupons I had to stack with were for items already on sale. Even with 30% off of these items, I wasn't finding the deals I wanted to find. I realized that the budget I was given is going to be difficult for some items, especially once tax is factored in, but I still feel confident I can do this.

To break it down a little easier so that I was able to determine if it was a good deal or not, I calculated the unit budget for items. For example: 104 rolls of toilet paper at a $36.00 budget meant I could spend approximately $0.35 per roll. Then you run into the issue of double rolls and mega (quad) rolls. The cost of toilet paper is insanely expensive if you don't have a goal in mind. If you buy toilet paper just to buy toilet paper, you may risk paying over a dollar a roll, which is ridiculous.

So after not having much luck on prices at CVS, we went to Big Lots. I ended up purchasing the toilet paper and facial tissue while I was there because the deals were just too good to pass up. I bought 3 packs of 9 megarolls (9 megarolls = 36 regular rolls) at $9.00 per pack (3 packs of 9 megarolls = 108 regular rolls). This was a total of $27 pre-tax. That comes out to $1 per megaroll, or the equivalent of $0.25 per regular roll. These rolls are HUGE. They are by far the fattest rolls of toilet paper I have ever seen. I'm enough of a nerd that I checked the number of sheets per megaroll to other packs of regular and double rolls, and this was definitely the best deal. My only concern is that the budgeted amount was based on 2 regular rolls per week, so this basically means that 1 megaroll should ideally last for 2 weeks. This is for the bathroom on the main level of the house, not the bathrooms in their individual rooms. Hopefully, it will last as it's intended. At the end of the summer once everything else has been purchased, if there is any money left, we'll re-evaluate if more TP should be purchased.

I also bought Puffs facial tissue - not Kleenex brand. This is another product that if you aren't careful, you will spend an arm and a leg for. The budgeted amount for "Kleenex" was $9, at 1 box per month for 12 months, or $0.75 per box. At CVS, Publix, whereever, tissue is easily $3+ per box, unless you got the generic cheap crap, which I'm trying to avoid if I can (though, inevitably, some items will end up being generics when all is said and done). I knew this was going to be difficult to beat. At Big Lots, there were some value packs of multiple boxes packaged together. The best deal I found was Puffs brand, large family size boxes. There were 8 family size boxes that claimed to be the equivalent of 14 regular boxes, which was more than the 12 requested. I argued with myself for a while if this was an appropriate buy, and I finally decided yes. The cost was exactly $9 prior to tax, but I wasn't worried since I came under budget on the TP, the tax wouldn't be an issue when I went to pay.

So, the total budget for the two items I purchased today was $45 (remember, estimated regular retail was $90), and after tax, the total bill was $ I was under budget by $6.48. I'm looking forward to collecting coupons and searching deals for the rest of the products, and will keep you all posted.

Hope you're all having a good weekend!

Friday, June 17, 2011

Extreme Couponing: Sorority House Style (Part 1)

What girl doesn't love to shop? I have been tasked to buy a years worth of generic household supplies for the Iota Theta Chapter of Alpha Xi Delta. The budget? $250.

I'm up for the challenge.

I have 2 months until school starts, and over the next two months I'll be searching sales ads, cutting coupons, and shopping for bargains to meet the requirements on the wish list, while coming in as far under budget as possible.

Here's the wish list:
Item Quantity Estimated Retail Budget(50%) Comments
Toilet Paper 104 rolls $72.00 $36.00 2 rolls/week x 52 weeks. Preferablely not Scott brand!
Paper Towels 52 rolls $52.00 $25.00 1 roll/week x 52 weeks. Minimum cost
Trash Bags - Large/Tall 400 Bags $104.00 $52.00 Daily use, wo trash cans
Dish Soap 12 Large Bottles $36.00 $18.00 1 large bottle/mo
Dishwasher Liquid 24 Bottles $144.00 $72.00 2 bottles/mo
Bath/Kitchen Hand Soap 24 Bottles $24.00 $12.00 2 bottles/mo
Magic Eraser 1 pack $5.00 $2.50
Napkins 6 packs $9.00 $4.50 Family Packs, white
Kleenex 12 Boxes $18.00 $9.00 1 box/mo
Windex 2 Large Bottles $6.00 $3.00
Bathroom Cleaner 2 Large Bottles $6.00 $3.00 For All Surfaces
Kitchen Cleaner 3 Large Bottles $9.00 $4.50 For All Surfaces
SOS Pads 1 box $4.00 $2.00
Sponges 2 packs $4.00 $2.00
Rags 2 bundles $2.00 $1.00 Can be donated old towels, etc
Duster 1 $3.00 $1.50 With wand/extender for ceilings
Vanilla Scents ??? $10.00 $5.00 Spray air freshener

A few clarifications I received after the list was sent to me. Substitutions are allowed. I know I can get smaller bottles of dish soap for next to nothing, and dishwasher packs are a better deal than the dishwasher liquid you can squirt into the compartment. Best value, best deal is the all around goal.

My planned strategy includes utilizing my favorite coupon website:, for deals at Publix, Target, etc, and also Big Lots. Because these items aren't food items, and wont expire, Big Lots will be a great place to check out if I just can't get a better deal with coupons somewhere else.

This weekend, I have a coupon for 30% off at CVS. I'm going to see what coupons I have for items on the wish list that I can match with the 30% off, to see if I can come under the 50% budget for the items.

I'll make periodic updates over the next couple of months as I find deals and when I'm done shopping, I'll report my total results. Meanwhile.....if you guys come across any fabulous deals you'd like to share with me to help me out, I'd love to hear it.