Thursday, January 13, 2011

To Be or Not to Be...

A Stay-at-home mom, that is.
When people ask me what I "do" for a living, I usually answer that I am MOSTLY a stay-at-home mom. I have not worked full-time since September 2002, and the majority of my day is spent caring for my home and children. But I have worked part-time for a good part of the past decade. In all, there was only a 2.5-year period where I was home full-time.
I have had so many part-time jobs, and quite frankly I am tired of keeping that kind of a schedule. I am convinced working part-time is the hardest thing a mom can do. I am home all day and do all of the "mom" things a stay-at-home mom does. But then I have to go to work - and work means crazy hours and giving up time that most other people consider "off" time. Evenings and weekends. Ugh. And, I make very little money at my part-time job, so I still have all the money concerns of other single-income families. It's not fun.
Last January, I was hired as a teacher's aide in our local high school. I loved my job, but the high school has very different hours from the elementary schools so I needed to find childcare for my two oldest children. I was lucky to find a friend who was willing to watch them and not charge me and arm and a leg, and it worked beautifully. But alas, she went back to school and could not do it any longer, so I quit my job and went back to school myself.
I am attempting to earn my teacher's certification. I have a degree in English, so I am going for secondary education AND special eduation. My state has some big changes in place, so I am trying very hard to finish my classes by the end of 2012. It may or may not happen, for a variety of reasons (the two major ones being money and time).
So, I have been taking classes, which I enjoy, but it creates a lot of stress in our house. I didn't know how lucky I was to be an undergraduate when I was 18! School is so much harder when you have to fit a house, a job, 3 kids and a husband into the mix! But I have also been applying for full-time jobs as well.
But I get conflicted when I try to decide what is best for us. I like being home, and now that the kids are all a little older, I have a nice amount of time TO MYSELF each week. It's heavenly, and I have waited almost a decade to get this time. I have not had classes for the past month, and it is so wonderful to be home and have nothing else to do besides clean, cook, care for the kids and (gasp) maybe read some books that I want to read.
But then the bills arrive, and I feel myself having heart palpitations because we just don't have enough money to do everything we want to do. I look at the worn carpet and long for hardwood. I see my boys in bunkbeds and wish for a bigger house so that they could finally have their own space. I cringe when we take a car to be serviced, just waiting to hear how much it will cost. And then there are vacations - I grew up taking lovely trips with my family and they created lasting memories for me. I want so badly to do that with my children, and we just can't keep up every year. I know it sounds petty, and that I should be happy with what I have. Believe me - I am. But after pinching pennies and living paycheck-to-paycheck for 10 years, I am tired of it.
But am I ready to go back to work? When I spend time with the kids I don't want to leave them. This is the only reality we have all ever known. It's scary to think of changing that.
And that's why I am back in school. It's easing me into that change. First, I am relearning major time management skills with juggling home, jobs and school. Second, my program will take me at least until Decemeber 2012 to complete - if not longer - so I can not look for a teaching job for nearly 2 years.
It's such a struggle to decide what it right for me and right for my family. I am trying to be patient and have faith - and right now that is leading me down the path to continue with school. I guess I will only know in time if that is the right thing to do.

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Extreme Couponing - Week 2

I forgot to take pics of my finds today, as I was in a hurry to get everything put away before my family returned home from their outing (yes, I had a day to myself today!).

First stop, Walgreens. I bought:
2 Lysol all-purpose cleaner (BOGO + Coupon)
2 Lysol toilet bowl cleaners (BOGO + Coupon)
1 All laundry detergent
2 Scrubbing bubbles bathroom cleaner
2 Fiber One granola bars
1 Ocean Spray cranberry juice
2 Airborn packs (But One - Get one 50%)
1 pkg BIC disposable razors (6 in pack)

$2 Register Rewards earned

Not the best shopping trip, but I am now fully stocked with cleaning products and Airborn (I recently discovered this stuff, and now swear by it! I am the only one in my house who has not been sick yet this year, and I credit it to Airborn!). And I forgot that the Ocean Spray had an in-store coupon, so I paid $1 more than I should have. I will chalk that up to a novie couponer mistake - this time!

Next I hit my grocery store, where I saved $20 off my bill with coupons and in-store deals, bringing the total down to $55. Not bad for our typical weekly shopping. I do have to go back, because my Grands biscuits rang up at full-price ($1.67) instead of $1/each. I wasn't sure of the deal, but checked the flyer when I got home and found that it should have been on sale. I will stop back tomorrow and get a price adjustment, and maybe pick up some more (my family loves Grands!).

I had forgotten my Extra Care Bucks ($6) from last week, so I brought my groceries home and then went back out to CVS. This trip back a hassle. The cashier was so slow, and then something wrang up incorrectly and I had to get a price adjustment. It took me much longer than anticpated, but I did get some good deals at CVS:

2 15-count Ziplock gallon freezer bags
1 Cinnamon Toast Cruch milk & cereal bars
2 Nature Valley granola bars
1 Airwick warmer unit (this was free with a coupon)
1 Lysol disinfectant spray
1 Airwick freshmate starter kit
1 Lysol Neutra-air air freshener spray
1 Herbal Essance Shampoo
1 Herbal Essance Mousse (free with coupon)
2 Airwick scented oil refill twin packs
1 airwick i-motion starter kit.

$15 ECB earned (!)

I am still debating the Pepsi ECB deal this week. We don't need any more soda, and shouldn't be drinking it anyway, but that $1.67/12-pk (after ECB) is so tempting!

Monday, January 3, 2011

Extreme Couponing?

Last week I watched Extreme Couponing on TLC with my extended family (it was actually what we did on my birthday!). I have always been more frugal than my sister, but we were both blown away with the savings that the Extreme Couponers could find. We decided to see how much we could save this month too!

Of course, I happen to live in an area that just doesn't double coupons. Every once and a while, Giant may run a promotion and double 6 coupons, but otherwise we just aren't lucky enough to be able to take advantage of the type of sales/discounts shown on that show.

But I was willing to try anyway...

On Sunday, I clipped a ton of coupons from the newspaper. Normally, I would clip a few for items we normally buy. This time, I clipped just about everything except pet food. Next, I sat down with a pen and all the sale inserts for my local stores. I circled everything that interested me - either because it was something we needed or something that was potentially a good deal. Next, I matched up coupons to sales.

Today, I headed to CVS. I had $1 in ECB (Extra Care Bucks) in my possession already, so I knew I would be able to use that. My list was short here, so it was a good way to test out my Extreme Couponing skills.
The Special K was on sale 3 for $10. I had a $1/3 mfg coupon, and received $4 in ECB!

The Colgate was on sale for $2.69 each. I had a $1 coupon, and got another coupon for $1.50/2 from the ECB kiosk (hooray!). I also got a surprise $2 ECB at check-out!

The coloring books (for my niece and nephews next year) were marked down to $.25 (from $1).

$6 in ECB earned!

From CVS, I went to Walgreens:

General Mills cereals were on sale for $1.99. I had a $1/3 coupon, getting me 3 boxes of cereal for $5. I also got a $1.50/4 coupon at the checkout for next time.

The Quaker Oatmeal was on sale for $1.99 and I had a $1 mfg coupon.

The SoftSoap was $1.99 plus a $1 in-store coupon plus a $.35 mfg coupon - $.65!

The Progresso soups were on sale 4/$5 with an in-store coupon, plus I had $1/4 mfg coupon.

The cough drops were on sale for $1 and I had a $.35 mfg coupon.

The Papermate pencils were $1.99 normally, but an in-store coupon brought them down to $.19 each pack!

The razor blades were a pricey $11.99, but I had a $2 mfg coupon, plus I got the shaving gel for free with the purchase.


I may not be an Extreme Couponer yet, but I think I did fairly well for my first time out!

Happy 2011!

It's been a long time since I last wrote on my blog, and a lot had happened in our home.

The biggest change is that I left my fantastic part-time job as a teacher's aid (that I only started a year ago) in favor of returning to school and FINALLY getting my own teaching certification. What a big change for all of us! I finished my first semester a few weeks ago, and I couldn't be happier about how it turned out. I got a nice solid A in my Educational Planning class, and an A- in my Creative Non-Fiction class (I still haven't seen my final portfolio, and I am anxious to see the comments on my writing).

The Creative Non-Fiction class is really what spurred me to bring this little old blog back to life. The class's focus was memoir writing, and what better way to create my memoir (someday...) than by actually writing about my daily life?

I am not sure if this blog will have a focus at this point. We have a busy house here with 2 kids in elementary school, one in preschool, a husband who works full-time AND teaches a class, and my crazy full-time mom/part-time employee/part-time student schedule...

My classes will resume in 2 weeks. It will be a busy semester with 2 classes and 2 Field Experiences. I am happy to be returning to my high school for my field experiences, but they will take up quite a bit of my "free time." I return to my part-time Saturday job the same week that classes resume. In the meantime, I am enjoying being a full-time mom again (and really enjoying that we are finally back into a routine after the craziness - and fun - of the holidays!).