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Retiring the 2012 New Home Wish List

In April 2012, I posted about our wish list for the new home that we were moving into by the end of that year.  I stated that we would only buy something on the list if “it has been on there for at least 6 months and we already have the cash on hand in our Wish List ING Savings account to buy it.  The only exception will be if we see the item on a sale so good that it is literally 50% or less of its normal cost and perfect for our house.”

The 2012 New Home Wish List

Well, we never actually created a wish list account, so that became moot.  But we did take our time to jump on some solid deals.

Refrigerator.  We found our refrigerator in September 2012, a month before we moved in.  I kept cringing at $1500-$2000 price tags, but a Sear’s mega-sale popped up along with a $50 coupon.  We ended up paying about $1050 for a giant, stainless steel Whirlpool.  I love it’s water filter, but it’s ice cube making system was a little annoying throughout 2013.  It’s been fine for the last year though and its two repairs were covered by Sears and Whirlpool respectively.

Covered Patio. We were going to have one built after-the-fact but we decided to have it added on during the build itself for $4750.  That means it ended up in our mortgage, but it also matches our house perfectly, is brick and professionally roofed, and it was poured along with our foundation to be seamless.  We probably overpaid by about $1000-$1500 from having it built after-the-fact, but it’s too late to worry about it much now.  :-)

Built-ins for the Library, Media Room, and Master Walk-in Closet.  We ended up getting library shelves and built-in DVD shelves for a steal from the builder.  $1150 covered it all – the wood itself was about $1000 when we priced it out.  We had them build everything…


We couldn’t have built this cheaper ourselves…

Media Room Shelves

These look fantastic and I hugged the dude who made them…he was covered in saw dust and I am an asthmatic, but he totally got Crystal pounced anyway. :-)


Washer and Dryer. Found a brand new energy-efficient washer and matching dryer right before we moved in for $1000 total at the same Sears sale.  They are holding up well although I do miss our old set once in a while.  The new machines are too smart for their own good.

Projector and Screen. We ended up buying a whole projector system and screen off of Amazon in early 2013 for $1650.  That included the projector, screen, surround sound, blu-ray player, and receiver.  Had to replace the $40 bulb about 9 months later, but it is all going strong.  We’ll use the whole system until it stops working outright.

Seating for the Media Room.  We just sealed the deal on this.  We are now proud owners of a 3-piece recliner set with cup holders and a separate recliner for $1235.

Recliners for Media Room

Here’s our new media room set.

New Couches.  We have 20+ year-old dark green leather couches right now that were hand-me-downs from my parents.  We have decided to put off replacing them since they are still comfortable and that works for us.  Thanks, mom!

Rugs and Linens for the Extra Bathrooms.  I’ve spent $100 on new towels, linens, and bathroom rugs in the last 3 years.  That works.

Seating for the Library.  We found a scratch-and-dent chaise lounge for $200 – works great and is super comfortable.  Many people accidentally fall asleep on the chaise lounge…that is a great library chair, hahaha.

Chess Table for Library.  We have put this off indefinitely.  We did end up with a $180 HUGE ottoman that has built-in seats and storage though.

Dining Room Set.  My in-laws swapped around dining room furniture, and we now have a great set.  Nice table, china hutch (now liquor cabinet), and a side buffet table.  Looks great and was free.  That’s a win!

Dining Room

Thanks to family (and their swapping of furniture), we have this room pretty much finished off, yay! The white cabinet in the back corner is actually our roommate’s pantry, lol. So it’s a temporary piece. ;-)

That’s a Lot of Money on Stuff

When I look at those totals, I see about $2100 in appliances, $6000 in home upgrades like a patio and built-ins, $1500 on furniture, and $1650 on entertainment electronics.  That’s $11,250 over 3 years.  We can afford that, we like what we bought, and we use it all regularly.  But let’s not fool ourselves, we spend money on wants – not just needs.  Stuff doesn’t make up a good life.  It just adds to personal comfort.  That’s not a bad thing, but we do watch ourselves to make sure that a pursuit of things isn’t actually driving our general lives.  The butts that go into our chairs are attached the people that matter.

I’m done with that wish list now.  I’m sure we will want new things yet again, but it’s time for using what we have and thinking about the extras later.

Have you ever had a wish list like this?  How is it/did it go for you?

What Do You Pay for Your Internet?

We cut cable in August 2014, but we kept AT&T Uverse High Speed Internet.  We pay for their highest speed option and it comes to $55 a month.

It has some service issues a few times a month for about an hour, which is really annoying, but I assumed this happened with lots of companies.  Yet a couple of our friends thought they paid $10 less with Comcast (though they have cable too, so it’s not a direct comparison), and they felt like theirs was faster.  I can’t find a ton online, so I’ll be calling around and asking for quotes.  But where should I start?

High Speed Internet

“High Speed”…I don’t think so.


What do you pay for your internet?  What company are you with?  Do you know if it is in Texas or not?  I really appreciate your feedback!  :-D

Hey, Walmart! You’re Losing Me!

Yesterday, a couple of you mentioned avoiding Walmart in the comment section of my post about grocery options.  I recently stopped going to Walmart regularly too. Hey, Walmart!  This is why you’re losing me…


I Used to Shop at Walmart

In college, Walmart was where I could find cheap groceries and supplies.  It was cheap.  It was close.  It had what I needed.  It’s been a decade since I graduated and either I’m noticing new stuff or…

Walmart Has Gotten Worse

Walmart used to be a part of our shopping strategy, but we cut it out of our regular runs about 3 months ago. It happened after a single, crappy trip.  I went in with a list of 6 things that I needed like air filters, super glue, etc. An hour later, they ended up having ONE of my six things. And it wasn’t cheaper than Amazon. I just walked out.

Here are the specific things that are driving me away:

  • Aisles are narrow.  I’ve had the back of my heels ran into more than once by shopping carts and rambunctious kids.
  • It’s extremely crowded.  I have slight crowd anxiety.
  • They are HUGE, so even a quick grab-and-go takes 15 minutes to find.
  • They never have enough registers open.  Even when they know there will be a ton of people, there are rarely more than 7 registers open.  That makes a grab-and-go take at least 30 minutes no matter how fast I find what I need to buy.
  • I don’t know why, but the fellow shoppers are generally louder than in any other store.
  • They are frequently out of what I’m looking for and I never know when they’ll restock.
  • The few conversations I’ve had with Walmart employees have only ended in two ways – upset because they were so apathetic (or just not useful) or just full of pity because they were struggling to make ends meet and needing to beg for more hours despite the fact that they are solid employees.
  • Their prices are low, but not OMG low.  Definitely not low enough to justify many trips.

So, I cut out Walmart except for middle-of-the-night visits every few months for things I can’t find cheaper elsewhere.

Is your Walmart different?  Am I just in a bad Walmart area?  Have you noticed any changes over the last decade?

How Much Do You Spend on Your Hair?

Before this year, I spent about $40 or less per year on hair stuff.  That included maybe 1-2 trims from a hair place and my shampoo and conditioner.  Now it’s much more, but I still seem to be behind compared to some.  What do you think?

Crystal 2012

This was my hair in 2012.

Crystal June 2013

Then I had all of my hair cut off in 2013…

Crystal 2014

Now it’s still short and I’ve spent 2014 playing with different colors…

My 2014 Hair Costs

  • 5 Hair Cuts – $150
  • Paul Mitchell Reformer stuff – $20
  • 6 Temporary Hair Colors – $35
  • Colored Hair Shampoo – $5
  • Hair nets, combs, random coloring supplies – $10
  • Total 2014 Hair Costs = $220

Future Plans

I don’t see my hair costs dropping much in 2015, but I can make a little dent.  I need it cut when it gets shaggy, so 6 hair cuts a year are just going to happen.  I have about half of the reformer cream left, and will buy it for $12 off of Amazon when I run out.  I may not be as color crazy, and I still have two of those colors left to try that I already bought.  But it looks like $200 is going to be my annual hair number.

So, have I lost my financial mind when it comes to hair or is this pretty normal?  How much do you spend on your hair?

Finally Switched to Ting!

There are referral links in this post, but I found out about that program after I already switched to Ting.  Oh, and if you use one of these referral links to switch too, we both get $25 credits to our Ting accounts!

I’ve been mentioning it on and off, but we finally followed through on it.  We switched to Ting wireless services from Sprint yesterday.

Why We Switched to Ting

It’s about the money, honey!  We’ve been with Sprint for more than 10 years now.  Until last year, I didn’t know of options like Ting and Republic Wireless, and I wasn’t interested in trying out the pay-as-you-go plans I do know about since we do use more than 500 minutes a month, 1500-2000 text messages, and lots of data.  I knew the existence of options in a vague way, but I liked ours the best.  We paid $150 a month and had unlimited everything on two 4G phones.  It was easy and we didn’t need to think about anything.  But then I saw Ting’s rates about 6 months ago…

I also saw that we could get exactly what we have now with Ting for $50-$75 less per month.  Ting uses the Sprint network so our experience would be the same.  Same network, same 4G.  Oh, and we could bring our own phones since they are approved.  AND we could keep our phone numbers!

Did I switch immediately?  Nope.  I procrastinated because it was an unknown, and I kept prioritizing everything else.  Besides, the contract cancellation fees would stink, right?  Yeah, but Ting would cover 25%.  I wiffle-waffled anyway.

But yesterday, I received an email from Ting announcing that they are currently covering 50% of the contract cancellation fees up to $150.  I just couldn’t put it off any more.  I called, I figured out what I needed to do, and we have switched cell phone carriers.

My Samsung Galaxy S3

Yep, my actual phone!

How to Switch to Ting

Take it from a procrastinator, you should look into this and just switch if it’s a killer deal for you too.  And it is not as daunting as I thought it would be:

  1. Look at your last cell phone bill to see how many minutes, text messages, and data that you use and how much you pay.  This was actually the hardest part for me since I lost our login.  But once I was in, woot!
  2. This is the fun part!  Check out Ting’s rates for the same usages.  Keep in mind that even if you have multiple lines, add up the total minutes, messages, and data as entities unto themselves.  Ting charges $6 per line and then the amounts stated for the pooled totals.
    For example, my husband and I generally use about 800 minutes, 1500 text messages, and 500-600 megabytes of data.  We pay $135+$15 in taxes.  The same at Ting is $12 (2 lines) +$18 (minutes) + $8 (messages) +$19 (data) =$57 plus taxes.  $150 compared to $75-ish.  I’ll post an update after our first bill.
  3. Create a quick account with Ting.
  4. Use Ting’s Activation page to activate a new device with Ting or to port your number to Ting.  This can take up to 24 hours.  It took about 2-3 hours on our phones.  I suggest doing it overnight.  They will email your when it’s done and explain how to finish the download process.  Takes less than 10 minutes after that initial few hours.
  5. Once your phone has been switched over, call your previous carrier to request your final bill that will include the early termination fees if there are any.  This bill can be online or on paper.
  6. Turn that bill with the early termination fees over to Ting.  They will reimburse the 25%-50% within 2-3 business days.
  7. Enjoy your lower bills!

I’m really looking forward to updating you all with my first bill in about a month.  Wish me luck!

Don’t Finance Christmas!

I’ve mentioned that we’ve cut cable.  That means that when I do watch regular tv or shows on Hulu Plus, I see commercials that I can’t just fast forward through anymore.  My jaw fell to the floor when I saw this Fingerhut commercial yesterday…

Payments to Spend More at Christmas?

Budgets and payment systems with interest involved are never to be included happily in the same 30 seconds…

I’ve already written about layaway, and at least it is like saving up for the gifts that you are buying.  Most of the time, it’s interest free as well.  But I even warned about the dangers of using it to spend more.

That said, who wants to pay for the upcoming Christmas for all of 2015?!  Don’t finance Christmas!!!  That doesn’t sound sane to me.  Making payments so you can afford to spend more than you have saved for Christmas just doesn’t make sense!  If you want to buy your loved one a $100 bedding set or coffee maker, but you don’t have $100 to spend on it, then either save for it or don’t buy it!!!  Your loved one would enjoy something cheaper just as much.

Anything sounds like a better idea than making a $9 payment who-knows-how-long for a coffee maker!  Heck, they don’t actually tell you right up front how long that you will be making those payments.  First you have to get approved for a credit line, then there is an OMG chart to use to figure out how long you will be making payments based on the thing’s overall price.

Christmas Gift Options – 5 Ideas for $5 or Less

Heck, they would probably like personal time with you more than you going into debt for a coffee maker.  Here are five fantastic ideas for $5 or less:

  • Plan a hike, walk, bike ride, etc.
  • Help them check a huge thing off of their life’s to-do list (my friend is helping me frame some used movie posters to decorate our media room).
  • Treat them to homemade yumminess like beer bread.
Yummy, Yummy Beer Bread

Look at that deliciousness! Golden brown, crunchy crust with an amazingly soft and delicious center…

  • Visit a discount movie theater near you.
  • Have a home movie night with a shared favorite and some popcorn.

Anything on that list is better than financing Christmas.  What other ideas can you think of?

It Feels Like the Holidays! My Tips for Holiday Gift Ideas…

I woke up yesterday in the mood for hot chocolate and a fuzzy robe even though it was 80 degrees outside.  And I started Christmas shopping.  Yep, I’m in the holiday mood.

Christmas Card Tree 2012

Sometimes the best traditions don’t have to cost anything but a bit of time…your gifts don’t have to break the bank either.

Holiday Organization

What this means is that I started my annual Christmas list – a list of everyone I know and what ideas I have for presents.  I also write down what I end up getting each person and highlight the people I need to work on next.  It’s a process.

I started this a few years ago when I realized that we are close with more than 40 people.  A handful of them don’t enjoy the gift exchange thing, so they are even on my list with a note by them to remind me that they are covered by not being covered.  ;-)  Everyone else is a close friend or family member that I want to spoil a little.

A big part of my process is trying to find a good, yet inexpensive, present for those who I shop for.  With 25-30 people to cover, I try to keep all gifts at $15 or less.  $10 or less is the big win, but I do inch it higher when I find the perfect fit.  Our main goal is to stay under the $500 mark for gifts for others each year.

Tips for Inexpensive but Awesome Gifts

I know that you will read a bunch about cutting back on holiday waste spending.  I also know that Secret Santa’s and White Elephant Gift Exchanges kick butt and do keep costs low.  I am not arguing that Christmas can’t be done without much money involved at all.  Honestly, more power to you if you and your family and friends celebrate without the spending!

I, personally, still want to buy specific gifts for specific people.  It is technically unnecessary, but I enjoy it.  I enjoy the hunt.  I enjoy finding that little thing that makes each person smile.  Even when I’m stumped, I like the fact that I am spending brain energy on the important people in my life.

We, my group, spoil each other with time and food and whatnot year round, but Christmas is special to me.  It gives me a real kick in the butt to think.  It feels happier in general.  And slower.  I love the holidays.

If you are like me, here are some tips on spending less but still grabbing awesome gifts for others…

Food and Crafts

If you are an amazing baker, have a special recipe, or are handy with your hands, MAKE YOUR GIFTS FOR OTHERS!  We non-craftsy people LOVE them!  I know my roommate is making me a crazy quilt.  I think it will KICK BUTT.  One of my other friends is baking cookies for everyone – YUMMY!  Last year, I got a mason jar of cookie mix and it made amazing cookies.  COOL BEANS!

Homemade means love.  Love is good.  Never undervalue the awesomeness of homemade.  Heck, I am spoiling a bunch of people on my list with food-by-me.  I won’t tell you what since some of my friends and family read my blog, but I am making some yummy stuff!  I bet they’ll all love it, because who doesn’t like yumminess?!


Inside Jokes / Funny Mannerisms

Inside jokes are the best fodder for ideas!  Funny can be priceless.

My husband is one of those people that seems pretty blah around groups on a regular basis until he gets a wild hair and chatters away.  I am a like-everyone-until-they-get-on-my-sh*t-list type of person.  He’s a people-suck-unless-they-don’t kind of person.  Last year, he got the coolest shirts ever from several of our friends.  They all said “Meh” and nothing else.  Different fonts, a couple of different themes, but “Meh” was the underlying factor.  He LOVES those shirts and still wears them.

This year, I’m getting a t-shirt for one of my self-proclaimed klutzy friends (who doesn’t read my blog, lol).  It says “I’m the Reason Why We Can’t Have Nice Things”.  They had every size imaginable.  It’s just too funny for that klutz you love or random child in your life.  It was $10 on Think Geek.


Hobbies are the next best idea trees.  My favorite t-shirt ever says “Careful or You’ll End Up On My Blog”.  It was a birthday gift from Isabelle.  I’ve worn it a ton for 4+ years now!  It has been joined with “It’s a Blog” shirt that has a Blob motif and a t-shirt with a dachshund typing away on a laptop.


My husband is a varsity sports official and enjoys the little $5-$10 goofy gifts his family, friends, and I find for him.  He truly enjoys his referee rubber ducky.  He also like the different ref-themed gag gifts around the house like the one that yells ref stuff at you when you leave the bathroom (we only turn it on for game days), the stuffed ref that was made to be torn apart and put back together, and the ref-themed groom’s cake that his mom made for him for our wedding.

The best thing hobby-wise could be to simply provide more supplies for whatever may be used up doing what they love.  An artist may need more paints, pencils, poster board, etc.  A person who sews may need fabrics, better supplies, yarn, thread, a pin cushion that goes on their wrist, etc.  A golfer always needs balls.  A tennis player may appreciate some wrist wraps.  There are all sorts of gifts for hobbies!

Things They Won’t Buy Themselves

I have some friends that won’t splurge on themselves, even for little stuff.  I use Christmas to fill in a few of those blanks.

I have gotten a fantastic used sewing machine for Mandy for FREE from a great neighbor that answered my classified on  I am scouring Craigslist for cheap aquarium setups for my Little Brother in the Big Brothers Big Sisters program since his mom was happy with the idea of me getting him a fish.  I might go the Sea Monkey route instead though.  Or a large bowl and a Beta.  We’ll see…

Sea Monkeys

Overall, gift ideas seem hard because we put a ton of pressure on ourselves usually.  Don’t.  Make it fun.  Don’t overthink it.  Aim for a smile or a giggle as opposed to the great shocker every time.  Sure, you may go crazy on a specific person some day, but it doesn’t have to be for every birthday or Christmas.  Don’t kill your budget for no true reason – your loved ones should already know that you love them.  This is just little, physical reminders.  ;-)

Have you started holiday shopping yet?  What are your tips and tricks?