All Mine 2 Background

Sunday, January 29, 2012

When Enough Is Enough - My Pantry Challenge

My pantry, it's a problem... Not the actual pantry, just the contents of the pantry. One of the things I like the best about this house is the storage... there's a lot of it, and the pantry is pretty good example of that. In fact, I can remember when I first moved in, I didn't even know what to do with it all. I had come from an apartment where my "pantry" was pretty much just a floor length cabinet about 12" wide, so this was a major upgrade for me. Well flash forward  about 4.5 years and I've figured out how to fill it to the brim! Between my stockpiling and my general "just put it in the pantry way of living", I've managed to stock it full of ... stuff... Not that it's not all good stuff. It's good stuff, stuff that I'm going to use (one day). But when is it enough stuff?

I think when it looks like this... This seems to be enough.
In fact, I think I've had enough. 
I know, I know, it doesn't look that bad. Well, you haven't seen the whole thing, and you don't know what's lurking inside. 

Allow me to give you a tour. We'll start on the left side as you enter. 

The top shelf is baking equipment. This includes the electric griddle that is used to make pancakes and things for baking like cookie cutters, food coloring, sprinkles and the like. 
The middle shelf is the baking supplies area. These things are flour, sugar, chocolate chips (and many other assortments of chips) marshmallows, and powdered sugar. Additionally, the carousel on the left has jars and boxes of extra seasoning mixes that do not fit in my spice rack on the wall in the kitchen.
The third shelf in this picture is basically the condiments shelf. This is where all my vinegars (which there are many), syrups, and sauces are stored. Also the little area in the corner is where my "bar" is. Right now, this is a half bottle of grape vodka (whaaatttt??) and a tiny bottle of orange vodka. See I told you this pantry is  a hot mess. 
I don't mean to eliminate this area of the pantry. Most of these things are staples that I like to have on hand.  But perhaps it does need to be organized... That might have to be another post.

Below these three shelves is this:

The top shelf has hot coca and other drink mixes, and the bottom shelf is my "stockpile section". This is where I stockpile things that I go through often, like coffee, coffee filters, garbage bags, and foil. On the floor is my onion/potato storage bins, my margarita stand (the goblets and pitcher are on the shelf above, and a crate of wine (I know).

Let's move to the middle section of the pantry shall we?

The top shelf is my stockpile of paper products (napkins and paper towels).
The next shelf houses things in boxes like crackers, breakfast bars, and granola bars. Next to that are the chips. 
The bottom shelf in this picture stores pasta, taco shells, couscous, and rice. This is one area that I've targeted for my pantry challenge. 

Below this we have the bottom middle section:

 This is also another "problem area". The first shelf is the canned good / jar area. And I have many as you can see. 
And the bottom shelf has drinks. I really don't know why I have all those cans of pop. It's a problem, it really is. And the Bud Light Lime? Yeah, that's left over from a party that I had OVER A YEAR AGO. Stop judging me!!     STOP!!
On the floor is my kitchenaid mixer and a bag of food for the food pantry. 

Next is the right side of the pantry, so here we go:

The top is where I have housed my take and go baking containers... one for cakes and pies and one for cupcakes. Next to that is my lunchbox, and next to that is a bunch of other stuff that's not shown in this photo (like wine bottle carriers).
The next shelf down is the breakfast cereal area and the dog food/treat area. Unfortunately the dog food and treat area has taken over the right side completely on this particular shelf.

And below this:

To the right of the cans is my cookbook collection.
Below that are my grilling tools.
And on the floor are Six... SIX gallons of water and a case of Dr. Pepper. The gallons of water may or may not be as old as 2007. Okay, I admit it, they are. Again, stop with the judgement. 

So as you can see, I really have a problem here. So I'm instating what I call the FOOD PANTRY CHALLENGE. This is very serious challenge which means, I am going to try to use up the food I already have in my pantry and in my freezer, instead of buying new (oh, the freezer, we're not even going there, but just imagine the cold version of this pantry) . I am also going to do my best to try to hold off on stockpiling until I feel a severe dent has been made. And lastly, the end result (and the treat for my efforts) is going to be a pantry re-organization including pretty bins and boxes to tidy everything up. 
I will do my part to share my results, stories and successes. Please comment to this post if you have any tips or stories of your own.
Let's start... now. 

Peace, Love, and expired canned goods,

Monday, January 9, 2012

$hameless $avings - It Pays To Shop Around

There are few things that I own that are priceless... Some of my personal art that I've created, a few pieces of family heirloom jewelry, some jewelry that's not heirloom but that means a great deal to me, and of course my Oscars. No no no, not those Oscars....  

These Oscars
Oscar de la Renta, that is. Shoes not statues. They're the most beautiful pair of shoes I own. I got them on sale 8 years ago or so at Saks Fifth Avenue Outlet. They're a timeless treasure. Other than that, if push came to shove, or hurricane season required (because that did happen a little over 3 years ago), I could pretty much leave everything else behind. And here's one last thing I would load up in my car during hurricane evacuation...

My most precious possession, Lola.

I've always tried to take the best care of her ... getting her the nicest (most expensive) holistic dog food and treats (heck, I think this dog eats better than I do sometimes), giving her nice showers with extra special pet shampoos, furnishing her with memory foam beds that are easy on her joints, and buying her $20/bag dental chews which she has 1 each week. Lastly I've always made sure she has her heartworm and flee prescriptions on time each month for which she must receive her annual physical each year. 

Needless to say, taking care of a dog is not to be taken lightly... it's a time consuming (and pricey) task. Namely, her yearly physical has cost me on average $130 each year, which includes required shots and physical workup (depending on shots required each year). I liked the vet at the clinic we went to well enough, but I started to feel like things were just a little pricey, especially when it came to teeth cleanings, which are very important as dogs age. Each year, I went back and forth on the teeth cleanings, thinking okay, I'll do it this year. But honestly, the $600 my vet was quoting me for a teeth cleaning felt like a whole lot to spend. Lola's last teeth cleaning was in Sept 2009 (to the tune of $606), so she hadn't had one in a little over 2 years. She goes for her yearly appointments at the start of each year, and so this year, I wasn't going to delay the teeth cleanings any more. I started asking my friends who had pets what their pet expenses were. My friend Jaime said her vet charged MUCH less for cleanings and I decided to do a little digging. 

Since the vets usually require a pre-cleaning appointment to check out the dog, I decided if I was going to make the switch to a different vet, the annual appointment would be the best time. This way, I would save on the pre-cleaning appointment, accomplishing that at the same time as the annual appointment. This eliminates one office visit and saves $50, which is how much it costs per vet appointment. 

My first step was to call the potential new vet and to explain to them that I'd like to switch vets because of a referral from a friend and ask them about their pricing for cleanings. This was to make sure that if I was going to make the switch, I would really end up saving money. Sometimes vets and doctors don't like to quote things over the phone as it is difficult to make quotes with out actually seeing the patient, and they don't want to get stuck quoting a price they can't follow through with if the situation is worse than expected. I get that way of thinking, so I made sure to state that I knew that this would just be a generalization and that I wouldn't take it as a direct quote if Lola's condition ended up being different. Doctors and vets love it when they get referrals. This is how they get a big percentage of new patients, so I knew if I threw that in there, along with an understanding attitude toward the quote, I'd have a good chance at getting the office to tell me about the pricing. Sure enough, I was quoted $225 for a cleaning on a large dog like Lola. Of course, I could expect to pay more for extractions. Well that was good enough for me. We made our appointment for a yearly physical, which was today. 

What I actually found out today is that this vet is a whole lot cheaper than my old vet, which makes me VERY happy.  And it's closer to home, so that's a definite plus. 

Now let's compare apples to apples. Vet 1 is our old vet and Vet 2 is the new one.

Vet 1                                                                           Vet 2
Exam $49                                                                  Exam $49
Heartworm Test $39                                               Heartworm Test $25.75
Intestinal Parasite Screen $32                               Intestinal Parasite Screen $14.75
Nail Clipping $0                                                        Nail Clipping $5
Total $120                                                                 Total $94.50

So just by switching vets, I've saved $25.50, not to mention the extra gas money I've saved by going to a vet closer to home. 

Lola's teeth cleaning is scheduled for next Monday, and she's on an antibiotic from the next week to clear up a little infection she has in her back molars. This cost me $19.80 today, and so I'll add that to her teeth cleaning total for vet 2. Here's how the teeth cleaning is broken down. I'll be using the paper work from the 2009 teeth cleaning at vet 1 to compare with the quotes I was given today by vet 2. 

Vet 1                                                                            Vet 2
Cleaning + Anesthesia $433.10                              Cleaning + Anesthesia $225
2 Tooth extractions $144                                        2 Potential Tooth extractions $110
Pain Meds to take home $29.65                            Pain Meds to take home $30
Total $606.75                                                           Antibiotics $19.80
                                                                                    Total $384.80
Wow. I'll be saving about $220! I'm pretty excited about it! Now we'll just have to see how it all works out. Fingers crossed that nothing unexpected happens during the cleaning. I expect my very precious cargo to be around for many more years to come!
That's not Lola, I just couldn't resist the urge to use this picture.
Peace, Love, and fresh breath smells,

Saturday, January 7, 2012

$hameless $avings - Why Phone Insurance Is For Suckers (Or Really Clumsy People)

About a year and a half ago, my life changed... 
I introduce you to EVO.

I know it's just a phone, and to say that it changed my life... well, I guess that sounds a little dramatic. But really, it changed the way I communicate. You see, before EVO, I had a Blackberry. And when I got the Blackberry in 2008, I thought I was pretty cool. I was able to type out text messages really fast with the neat keyboard underneath, and I was able to get on the Internet from my phone (a feature that I had never been able to do before). I even was able to use Blackberry Messaging (BBM) to message with my friends. Now that may sound like a lot of neat stuff but man oh man, none of that compares to what EVO could do. Here's the way I think about EVO... when I got it, I didn't even know about all the capabilities it had, but now that I know what it can do, it's like I needed my phone to be able to do things that I never even knew I needed... Yeah, I know that's pretty deep... just go with it. 
So let's flash back to August 2010 at the Sprint Store when I'm getting my EVO. 

Sprint Guy: Ma'am would you like to get the insurance on your phone? It's only $7/month and it's going to cover everything.
Me: So, I could drop it in the toilet, and bring it in here and you'll replace it for free?
Sprint Guy: Yes, ma'am
Me: Sure

Okay, so you see what happened there? I signed up for something that cost $7 / month thinking oh it's no big deal, it's only $7 each month and heaven forbid I should drop it in the toilet, crack the screen or get it stolen at 'da klub. I don't want to have an accident with my phone and then have to pay to replace it. At the time, the EVO had just come out, and they were going for like $600. After all, I had to pay $200 for it and sign an new 2 year contract when the old contract expired and I replaced my Blackberry. 
What I didn't think about was the fact that $7 each month adds up to be $84 over the course of the year and $168 over the course of 2 years! The life cycle of a phone is about 2 years because that's when your contract expires and you are eligible to get a brand new phone at the lowest cost offered (usually $100-200). So after 2 years, I would have payed almost double  the initial price of the phone just to have insurance!!?? Another thing I didn't consider was the likelihood that any of those above 3 things would happen. In the course of having my Blackberry for 2 years, I had never dropped it in the toilet, cracked the screen, or gotten it stolen. This isn't college where you get your hot pink faux lizard skin purse stolen in 'da klub because you were dancing with your friends and lost track of where your purse was (that may or may have not happened to yours truly almost 10 years ago).  Also, spell check accepts "'da" as a real word... interesting. But I digress, $168 is just not worth it to me to protect against the event that I am clumsy or stupid. 
So flash forward to April of 2011, and I've had my precious EVO about 9 months. And exactly zero cracked screens, toilet damage or robbery experiences have occurred, mind you.  I get a letter in the mail informing me that my insurance that I had been paying $7 for is now increasing to $8. WTF!! Okay, NOW I've had it. I cancelled the insurance, and now I'm out $63 for my stupidity and irrational fears about dropping my phone in the toilet.  But at least I didn't continue to pay for it because you know how much that would have cost me? $183 over the course of 2 years. NOT DOING IT. 
We are now in January of this year, and I've been experiencing lots of fun times with my phone. Namely, it turns itself on and off for about 30 minutes every time I try to play Words With Friends for more than 2 moves (WWF for those "in the know"). If you don't know about it, you should. I take it into the store, and it goes something like this.

Sprint chick: Ma'am we don't know why your phone is doing that, but our technicians say it's an issue that's been reported before so it's just something wrong with the phone. We can get you a new one, but it's going to cost you $35 because you don't have the insurance. 
Me: Umm okay, that's cool (quickly calculating that $35 equals about 4 months of insurance payments)
Sprint chick: So I'll add the insurance to your plan so we can avoid this in the future. 
Me: No lady, I do not want the insurance! What do you think I am some kind of idiot? All I have to do for the next 5 months is not F up my phone. (Since that's when my contract expires). NO THANK YOU. 
(Okay I didn't really say that, but that's what I was thinking.)
Sprint chick: Okay ma'am, I'll go ahead and place that order. 

So what we've learned today is, it is not worth it to purchase the insurance. If there is an issue with your phone that arises that was not caused by you (ie. not exterior damage or theft), the phone will be repaired or replaced for a small fee, in this case $35. Unless you are accident prone when it comes to your phone, do not get scammed by the phone companies.