Friday, October 30, 2009

Small Business Info

Ok, I haven't done a small business post in a loooong time. And I think we'll go with a topic near and dear to my heart. Rent. The last company I worked for (which will remain nameless as they are a list of dirty words that I don't use in this blog!) They just recently purchased a shopping center by my house, so it has me thinking about rent costs and things that go along with setting up a space for a small business.

If your business is tiny like mine, a space in a shopping center might seem like a far away dream. Having worked for a property management company . . . let's just say to think of it more like a far off nightmare. Please email me if you are thinking of getting a shopping center space so I can give you some more information on what to look at in your lease. I have some very specific and very important information on this.

So if you aren't ready for a shopping center space just yet, where else can you sell what you make? For me, festivals and craft fairs have been a great start. The downside, it's a ton of work. But any level of running your own business is a ton of work.

Festivals have been the most profitable for me. Also the most amount of work, and the highest amount of risk. They range in cost from about $65 on up. The top range of festivals that I'll do is $125. Anything more than that isn't worth it to me. That may not be the same for everyone though. A couple things to look for when you are looking over the application is to see if there are any other requirements that are going to cost you. A couple festivals that I've opted out for require the vendors to have their own liability insurance. There are some that require you to have a business grade fire extinguisher. I opted to make that investment since my craft involves fire. Another large expense for festivals is the tent. A halfway decent tent is usually around $100. The tent is a pain and a half. Take a look at the cute little picture on the side that shows how easy is it to pop it up. Then laugh. I almost always take my hubby with me when I have to set up a tent. It is not a one person job. Even with two people, it's still not easy. If my hubby isn't with me, I play the damsel in distress to get some man help from other vendors. Learn to look stressed out and helpless. Against my principles, but a girl's gotta do what a girl's gotta do.

Another big problem with festivals is weather. It's very risky. If the weather is bad, there won't be as many customers. And you have to sign up for the festivals months in advance. So there's no way to know ahead of time. An extra bonus is that if the weather is bad, not only will you have fewer customers, you also run a pretty big risk of losing inventory, and possibly even your tent. Last year I lost two tents in storms. I just love it when the tent loss comes on a Saturday so you have to run out Sunday morning and get a new one and rush to set it up and get things ready before the festival opens on Sunday.

But festivals are not all bad. Far from it. Once your set up is done, it's fun. Most customers are in a good mood. Because they are at the festival to relax and have a good time. They usually have money in their pockets ready to spend. And they are happy to look at new and different things. It's a very laid back atmosphere, and sometimes there's beer. And guess what? It's your business. You're the boss. If you want to drink, drink! Personally, I indulge (when I'm not pregnant) but I am usually very discreet with my cup.

This time of year, craft shows are getting underway. These are great! Not quite as profitable as the festivals, but you don't have to worry about the weather. Most craft shows I've been involved in are around $65 to $100. I've seen some for $25. Setup can still be stressful. But without the problem of the tent, it's not terrible. A lot of the same principles of festivals apply. Customers come in looking for crafts with money in their pockets. The biggest challenge with craft shows is finding ones that are big enough. I've done some that are great. I've done others where no one seems to know about them, so no customers show up. So ask around. Other vendors are a great resource to find out about good shows.

Once you've decided where to sell, the most important tip I have is to just relax and have fun. I've seen vendors get totally stressed out during set up. And I've been one of them too. But if you give yourself plenty of time, have a plan for how set up is going to play out, be prepared for the fact that there will probably be some hiccups, (like finding out that the organizers changed your space as the last minute) and just enjoy yourself. Try not to let things aggravate you too much, and when things don't go as smoothly as you would like, make the most of it. Bad weather is a good opportunity to network with other vendors. You will find that there is a family-like atmosphere among vendors. Most are friendly and willing to share information and experiences. And don't worry, you'll have your own horror stories to share soon too! The horror stories are horrible when they happen, but they turn into bragging rights among vendors! Mine is about how I was out at the Scarecrow Festival in Washington Court House, OH when that freaky hurricane blew though. I had made the hour and a half drive only to find my tent in ruin, and had to hurry up and pack everything into the car while street lights were flying down the street. Even better, it took two trips to get everything there, and I ended up having to leave some things there because not everything would fit in the car in just one trip. But I did have the help of some very nice vendors and people in the community.

Baby's First Picture

Ok everyone, here s/he is! 13 weeks confirmed, and only one baby in there, so happy day! We'll be getting another ultra sound at 20 weeks. Since Dawson was 5 weeks early, this doctor seems to be wanting to do several ultra sounds to make sure everything goes fine. Everything is great so far. They will be watching pretty close later on. I like having an early baby, just not five weeks early. Let's aim for just 3 weeks early, which is still considered term. You hear that Baby D?

Big Coupon Day this Sunday

There will be 3 inserts in this Sunday's paper. Lots of good ones too. One of note is that there a .55 cent off coupon on Hormel Pepperoni. At Meijer, the coupon doubles to $1, and they often have the large slices (found in the refrigerated section of the deli/produce dept) on sale for $1. So free after coupon. Just watch out for them to come on sale. There will also be more diaper and wipes coupons. Save those up for a good Walgreens sale.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

What Have I Been Up To?

Not much. LOL. I've mostly been trying to cope with morning sickness and exhaustion still. Knock on wood, it seems to getting better. I'm super excited about my first ultra sound tomorrow. I should be 13 weeks along. I'm somehow convinced that there is more than one tumbling around in there, so we'll see. I think there's something in my brain that's telling me that my past couple months of laziness and sickness will make more sense if there's more than one. But we'll know tomorrow. I'm also hoping that maybe my calculation are off and maybe I'm further along than I think. Please God!!!! I despise being pregnant. Even the actual labor isn't as bad as the 9 months of pregnancy.

Another thing contributing to my increased energy I think, is that I'm back on my anti-depressants! Yay! Happy pills are good! Most people probably aren't quite so open about this, but I've suffered with mild depression since I was a teenager. A few years ago I finally got treatment for it, and I want the whole world to know that if you have a problem, you should get help. It doesn't made you weird or crazy, or unable to handle life. It just means that you have a problem and take a medicine for it. No different than blood pressure medicine or anything else. If you need it to be and feel healthy, then get it. Life is hard enough without suffering needlessly. Without the medicine, I feel pathetic. With it, I feel like me.

Let's see, what else? Dawson is doing great. Some of the new things he's been doing . . . he can use utensils pretty well to eat. He likes spinning around in circles until he falls over dizzy. And he loves watching Sunday football with Daddy. Dave gets so loud and excited (obnoxious) when the Bengals score, and Dawson just loves it. So I've joined in on getting loud and excited over touchdowns too, just so I don't get left out. LOL. He's also got a little football. He throws it at Dave, and then runs to him to get tackled. Adorable. I don't like watching sports on tv, but with Dawson's excitement, I find that I look forward to the games every week now too. Weird, huh? King of bummed that this week is the bi-week. Kind of weirded out that I know what the heck a bi-week is.

So that's my life right now. I will post ultra sound pictures when I have them! And I probably won't get a chance to post again until after the holiday, so I want to remind everyone to go candy shopping on Sunday. Clearanced Halloween Candy can be great for munching on, sticking in lunches, or using to make candy or cookies. Hershey Kisses wrapped in orange foil taste the same on top of a Christmas cookie as what the ones wrapped in red or green do. And if you have a sweet tooth and like to eat candy in general, it's better to have it in a small serving size than to buy a full sized candy bar. Economical and healthier.

Check out this video

I found a link to this on Hip 2 Save. But this is a neat little video that aired on Good Morning America about how one woman is able to buy groceries for her family of 6 for less than $4 a week. I'm not that organized. But using The Grocery Game does help me keep my bill very low. The highlight for this week for me was free Snuggle fabric softener and 99 cent All detergent at Kroger!

Monday, October 26, 2009

Dining out with baby

I came upon this money saver by accident. I've been patting myself on the back ever since because it was PERFECT for my family. We went out to eat on Friday, and had a wonderful time. There was a yummy looking appetizer I wanted to try. It was around about $6.50. Then I noticed that the appetizer I wanted was also part of a larger appetizer sampler that was about $9.50. The sampler came with chicken tenders as one of the sampler items. Then a quick glance at the kids menu showed me that the cheapest thing on the list was about $3.50. So instead of getting the single appetizer, we got the sampler and fed the chicken tenders to Dawson for his meal. So, aside from the fifty cents in savings . . . .

We got the appetizer I wanted, along with potato skins which are always yummy.

We were able to feed Dawson the bulk of his meal while we were at the "just snacking" stage of our meal. He didn't get fussy waiting on food. And he was done and happily playing with his fork when our entrees came out. We were able to enjoy our meals like normal people instead of letting it get cold while figuring out how to feed a toddler and ourselves at the same time.

It was a lot more food than would have been included in a regular kids meal. So we had enough leftovers for an additional meal for him the next day.

And does it annoy anyone else that kids meals are the simplest, most basic foods, tiny portions, and they want to charge you like 4 or 5 bucks for them? I'm sorry, but a grilled cheese sandwich is not worth $4 when you can get a regular sized and quality entree for $8. The standard chicken tender kid meal was $5 and included two tenders. And I'm sure if we had ordered that, it would have been a whole different quality. For just the $3 extra on an appetizer we would have already bought, we got 4 delicious tenders that Dawson just LOVED, and like I said, the four potato skins. He enjoyed one of those too.

I have to say, after doing it this way once, I will ALWAYS do it this way. As he gets bigger, and with another baby on the way that will eventually eat kids meals too, we might need two appetizers. But I found it very enjoyable to have the extra options to munch on. And forget the cost savings. LOL. Having the food there so early and fast to get Dawson fed was spectacular!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Sharpen Your Scissors

Two inserts in the paper tomorrow. I haven't looked really closely, but I did see that there are a lot of diaper coupons. If you need diapers like I need diapers, you might want to grab a few papers.

Extra Extra

After stockpiling for almost a year, there are some items in my stockpile that I know I'll never use. All are things I got for next to nothing. Like Head and Shoulders shampoo. Great product, but I prefer the girly and fruity smelling shampoos, and hubby prefers the man smelling stuff. And since I can always find great and/or free deals on those, no sense in having the stuff we don't like take up space in my closets. Or I've found out that hubby will only use the gel deoderant stuff that squeezes through the holes. (Or I have to listen to him complain everyday when he puts on the other stuff.) So I may as well free up the space.

This is actually a really good time of year to go through your cupboards and closets and clear out unwanted items. Many charities are in need of things for the holidays and winter season coming up. Another thing I like to do is put together gift baskets. I may not use the full size St. Ives face wash that I got for 49 cents, but it goes great in a gift basket for a teenager paired with some lotions and makeup. If you've been a super couponer for any time at all, you probably have some things to get rid of. Be creative, and remember, it can do someone else a lot more good than it will ever do you if you have no intention of ever using it.

I actually read earlier today that some person had stockpiled 120 cans of Campbell's Tomato Soup. Wow! Evidently this person got the soup for just pennies after coupons, and took it around to her neighbors. What a great idea! How nice would that be to just grab a package of lunchbags, stick a couple cans of soup in it and maybe a pack of crackers or something, and pass them out to your neighbors, just to be nice? Or stick the can inside a large mug with some decorative packaging filler, then create your own little blend of spices to add to it. Put it in a little bag with a cute little label and one of those cheesy poems about how to make a happy home by adding a cup of love and a dash of kisses, etc. That would be a nice little Christmas gift for teachers, people at church, neighbors, coworkers, whoever. And all you would really have to pay for is the mug. Find a good deal at Oriental Trading Company and buy them by the dozen, and there you go.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Check your car insurance

I switched companies for my car insurance today and am now paying almost half of what I used to. Huge savings. Better coverage. Crazy that I didn't do it sooner. Check around. I used Progressive this time. I'm going to make it a habit to compare rates about once a year now. It's easy when you can just answer questions online to get a quote. And what does the commercial say? Ten minutes could save you. It's true. Be sure to cancel your old policy after the new one is in effect. And I've seen commercials for Allstate where they'll cancel your old policy for you. Lots of neat benefits out there right now. I like Progressive because they'll cover vet bills for my puppy dogs if they're in the car during an accident too! Costs them very little, but they get huge happy customer points on that one. It's just a nice thing to do.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Prescription Savings

A good way to reduce your grocery costs is by transferring prescriptions. This past year I've been able to transfer my prescriptions from pharmacy to pharmacy every month in order to take advantage of some free money towards my groceries. My family as a whole has five prescriptions, and we have to spend the money on them every month no matter where we get them. So I choose to transfer and get the free money towards groceries and other necessities. There are some downsides to this. First, it's a pain in the you know what. You can't just call the little number on the bottle and have the prescription ready for you when you get there. You need to take the old bottle to the new pharmacy, then wait around for them to do their thing. Plus, you often get pharmacists that are mad that you're taking advantage of those offers. I used to feel bad about it. Until Meijer Pharmacy had a whole bunch of coupons in the Entertainment Book last year for it. The coupons were valid every other month. So that tells me not only do people do it regularly, Meijer EXPECTS that people do it. They were encouraging people to do it. So after that, I no longer feel bad. So it's just a matter of dealing with the inconvenience to myself. And the snotty pharmacists, who cares? If their company is releasing the coupon, then they have to deal with it. Not my fault. I'm just taking advantage of a good thing.

So, there are a few rules to be aware of when transferring prescriptions. First, be prepared to wait. Also, be sure to go to have it filled when the last pharmacy you used will still be open. The new pharmacy needs to call the old one to transfer it. If you don't want to wait, you should be able to drop it off one day and pick it up the next.

Another big important thing is that you have to be organized. All but one of our prescriptions, if we have to go a day without, then we'll live. So I have a bit of room with that. But it's important to know what you need when you need it and from where you need it. It's easy to get confused. I keep all of my info listed on a calendar.

The last thing to keep track of is the rules for the different stores, and the coupons that are available.

Rite Aid - printable coupon on their website, can only transfer two in a six month period

Target - can transfer as much as you want, but you have to have a valid coupon. The coupons are released regularly, but there is some time between them where the last coupon has expired and the newest coupon hasn't been released yet. It's also difficult to find these coupons in the store. So be sure to save them from your Sunday papers. Sometimes you can ask a cashier, and they will give you one from the ad they keep at their register.

Meijer - their pharmacy coupons print off from the catalinas at the registers. The coupons are readily available if you shop there. It's also nice because you can do your grocery shopping while waiting on your prescription.

CVS - they sometimes have coupons available, but they usually aren't very high value. On the other hand, they do accept competitors coupons. So take in a Meijer or a Target coupon when you transfer. I personally don't like CVS, so I don't go there often. I don't know if there are any rules as to how often you can transfer with a coupon.

Walgreens - Every once in a while they have coupons in their ad. These are great because they have them readily available at the front of the store, and they are usually valid for several months. I try to get enough coupons saved up to last for the entire time period that they are valid. I used to transfer every other month, but I was told once that I could only do it every six months. I'm not sure what the official rule is.

K-mart - There are sometimes coupons available in their ad. I don't so much like using Kmart for this though. All other pharmacies that I've ever used have had a flat amount coupon. No matter what the price of your prescription, you get the certain amount in a coupon or gift card. At Kmart they only let you have the same amount that you paid for your prescription. In reality, it makes sense and I can't blame them. At the same time, Kmart has a pretty high markup on their merchandise, and it's not as beneficial for me when I can go somewhere else and not have that rule.

Kroger - every once in a while I've come across coupons for the Kroger pharmacy. I've usually gotten them in the mail when they send out coupons and things for Kroger card members. Very rare, but I certainly use them when I get them.

Personally, I usually transfer back and forth between Meijer and Target. Just because it's easiest for me. Both Meijer and Target are the only ones that let you use the coupons on NEW prescriptions. But with five prescriptions a month, this usually gets me between $50 and $125 of free money towards groceries each month! This method isn't right for everyone. Sometimes it's cheaper to get the prescription through mail order. Or if you don't have insurance, then your medication may be cheap enough at one place to cancel out whatever savings you would get from the coupon. But my insurance doesn't give me a big enough discount with mail order, and my copays are the same no matter where I go.

Friday, October 16, 2009

10/18 coupons

There are 2 inserts in this Sunday's paper. I personally will not be buying extra papers because there is only one coupon that I will definitely use. 50 cents off on Super Pretzels. Doubles to $1, does not make sense to spend $1.50 on a paper for 1.00 worth of coupons. However, anyone that wants to send extra Super Pretzel coupons my way, feel free!

If you're wondering how I know exactly what coupons are going to be in the paper . . . they are listed at Taylortown and Coupon Clippers.

Another good site for sneak peek deals is You can see the Walgreens ads several weeks in advance! This can be very helpful. I knew not to buy soda one week it was on sale because it was going to be priced even better the following week.

Kroger New Gas Rewards

You can now get up to a dollar off per gallon of gas by shopping at Kroger. The details are here.

Now after puzzling over the fine print, you might be wondering how this is a good deal. After all, you would have to spend $1000 in groceries to equal a dollar off per gallon of gas. There are a couple couponer tricks though. First off, the points are calculated BEFORE COUPONS. So if you have $100 worth of groceries, then your big stack of coupons takes you down to only $20, you still get credit for the full $100. This is awesome! More reason than ever to take advantage of those free after coupon deals. I got a few things at my trip yesterday that I don't need, but they were free, so I got them anyway. They go straight to my donation pile, but counted towards my fuel rewards. So worth the effort, and it helps someone else who will receive the items I donate.

Another tricky way to get more points is to buy gift cards. Let's say you're going out to dinner to Olive Garden with your honey. Instead of just paying at Olive Garden, stop by Kroger and grab a couple gift cards first to cover the cost of your meal. $50 in gift cards is the same as $100 in groceries. This is great for Christmas shopping in the near future too. Give gift cards as gifts, or, if you're shopping at a particular store, buy the card at Kroger and use it yourself. So long as it's stuff you already intend to do, and so long as it doesn't make you feel like a crazy freak, go for it! I admit, sometimes I feel a little weird with the couponing! But it's worth it to me to feel weird for a few minutes at the store so that I have a few more bucks at the end of the day. And saving money on gas is one of the things that's hard to do.

(I'm still trying to figure out the fuel rewards for Biggs. I've heard of people only paying pennies per gallon on their gas by shopping at Biggs, but I'm not a Biggs shopper, and I haven't had any luck finding any good information that makes it easy. If you know of any, please post.)

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Coupon Organization

I've been couponing for almost a year now, and you wouldn't believe the coupon mess around my house. I've tried several different methods of organization, and I just haven't found anything that works for me. The best way is to clip and sort everything. But that takes forever. Then clearing out expireds at the end of the months is a pain. Seems like a lot of work for nothing. In the end I usually go through my ginormous stack of random coupons one by one to find what I'm looking for. Not fun. But I don't know if I'll ever find a good method.

Here's the method I'm trying now. On Sunday when I get my coupons, I clip them, then put all coupons from that date in one envelope. Most coupon sites list coupons by the date they were in the paper, so when I'm looking for one in particular, I can just grab the envelope for the date, and just sort through that small stack. It seems to be working so far. I've also been stapling together like coupons so I only need to find one to have all of them. It makes them easier to clip that way too. I stack the like coupons, staple, then cut them all at once instead of each one separately.

If you have any other methods that you find quick and easy, please post a comment.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Recycling Heat

As the weather starts getting chilly, I know I'm already starting to dread the high heating bills. There are a few things that I do to reuse and conserve heat. The biggest one . . . reuse my dryer heat. I disconnect the tube thingy that vents it outside, roll up a towel and put it in the hole that leads to the outside, then hang the open end of the tube off of the shelf over the dryer, pointing towards the rest of the house. When I dry my clothes, instead of sending that heat outside, it helps to heat my house. And the best part, it's nice humid heat. It really helps keep the house more comfortable when the air gets dry with the cold. If you have an electric dryer too, try it! Be forewarned though, it may take some experimentation to learn how to place the vent. I just let it lay on the floor to start with (figuring that hot air rises) and then I had a puddle of condensation on my floor.

Another thing that I do is keep the heat turned down at about 60 or 65 degrees. Then I use space heaters to warm the room that I'm in. I always like to be snuggled under a blanket anyway, so it works. At night an electric blanket on the bed helps to warm just the area that I need. I usually set the programmable thermostat at the low level overnight, then have it start warming up a bit more when it's time to get out of bed.

Of course, how you manage your heating is up to your personal comfort goals. For some reason, I really hate having to pay for heat. I don't know. It just seems like one of those things that shouldn't cost an arm and a leg and my first born. Never underestimate some of the old fashioned heat conserving methods too. Light some candles, get a couple big dogs, and snuggle up with your loved ones!

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Still Alive

Hello everyone. Sorry I've been missing in action for the last month. I've been dealing with morning sickness, and keeping busy with my candle business when I'm able to function. It's been crazy. I haven't even had time and energy to do my couponing. Plus, cravings being what they are . . . going to the store with a list isn't exactly working out. I've actually paid full price for a few things. GASP!

But I do have some news. My candles are now available for sale at a new age store in Hamilton!!! Maiden, Mother, Crone on B Street is carrying some of my fragrance oils, candles, tarts and incense on consignment. This is a first for me and I have been very excited and have been working very hard on getting things together for it. I've also gotten back to doing my festivals and craft shows. It's been tough with the sickness and the tiredness. But it also feels really good to be out and working again.

Dawson was also sick for a few days. Just a little bug. No big deal. Enough to freak me out about flu/swine flu. But he's fine. He also had his yearly checkup for his heart. He has a tiny murmur, it's still there, but everything is fine. The doctor expects that it will heal itself, it just has to be checked every year.

If anyone knows of any good craft fairs going on in the Cincinnati/Dayton areas, please leave a comment or email me. I'm still working on my schedule. I will post it here once I've got things lined up. If anyone has any good contacts with the Lakota East High School craft fair that you can set me up with, I would appreciate it. I've heard there's a waiting list to get into that one, but I'm not above bribery. wink wink.

So, I'm trying to get back to normal, so I will be posting more regularly again.