Saturday, December 29, 2012


I am a bit of a Criagslist Whore.  Now. . .before you start getting all these weird ideas in your head, let me explain.  I love Craigslist.  I spend a lot of time searching Craigslist for that ONE, GREAT, CHEAP (or FREE) bargain.  I hop from city to city looking for the stuff I need around the house or for the horses.  It saves me money in the long run, but I seem to always have some money involved.    Then. . . .I found it.  The site of all sites geared toward the bargain hunting mama:  SWAPMAMMAS.   This site is set up similarly to facebook with members having a profile where they can participate in conversations and groups, but with a focus on swapping for desired items.  No money is exchanged.  The only cost to you is the cost to ship your item to the desired recipient.  It's pretty awesome and my hope is that I'll end up getting rid of some stuff that has just been sitting around and end up with some cloth diapers!

Friday, December 28, 2012

To Cloth or Not to Cloth. . . that is the question!

Hubby and I decided (well. . . I think in this case, I decided) that we would experiment with cloth diapers at least part of the time.  It will save money in the long run (see the comparison here) and many argue using cloth diapers are better for baby.  Of course, because I am the Ph.D wanna be, I have to ask myself, "SAYS WHO?!"  Who says cloth diapering is better?  Bloggers?  Scientists?  Who?! Well, National Geographic, for one.  Web MD, on the other hand, indicates the research really isn't so clear.  It seems for every reason that seems to support going cloth only, there are is data to contradict.  So, it seems that this decision really comes down to personal preference and money, in our (my) case.

Hubby and I need to find every way possible to save, therefore, we'll be trying cloth in addition to disposable.  We may make the decision to ONLY use disposable when we are out far away from home or will be gone for an extended time.  We may decide to completely go cloth.  What I do know is that we'll be running our very own science experiment in our home.  I am looking forward to seeing the looks on the Bonus Babes' faces when they see diapers that are made of fabric.  It will be a different experience for them!

Speaking of different--the options are endless for cloth diapering now.  It certainly isn't the way my Dad  might remember it. I have found so many resources at my finger tips, thanks to the Internet.  So far, my favorite resources have been:

There are so many websites to choose from on this topic. . .again, the options are really endless.  So far, I am thinking I want to go with an ALL IN ONE (AIO) style of diaper because they seem to be the easiest to use.  I will plan on using a disposable liner like this to help keep diapers relatively clean and there many choices available in this department too.  No doubt, pictures of our diaper experimentation will follow in the future! 

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Happy Holidays!

I hope everyone had a super holiday season, no matter what you celebrate!  This year has been a challenging one at our home.  Finances have been tight and that made holiday time a bit stressful and, at times, less cheery.  However, we had an excellent few days of family togetherness and gift exchanges.  Husband and I had to get a little creative this year, but it all worked out.  The kids seemed to enjoy themselves and little one on the way even received a few gifts!  Bonus daughter and son insisted that we should put up a stocking for little one this year, even though she hasn't been born yet.  I do regret that we didn't do this because it was fun to see their joy in wanting to do something for their sister.  Husband and I told them little one has already received so many presents (thus a whole room full of things for the baby) that she didn't need a stocking this year!

Now, I'm back to work (today includes a "full" day of filing, putting together book boxes for some of the agencies I partner with, finishing a grant report, and conducting one parent education class).  Have most of you returned to work?  On my days off, I've used my time to start my taxes, get paperwork organized for the new year, and start organizing little one's room.  I guess I must be nesting!

I've started looking into the process of taking out a GRAD PLUS loan to pay for the remainder of my Ph.D program and I am getting the family finances in order for the new year.  Considering the amount of educational debt I have at this point, I am really reluctant to take out more, but it appears this will be the only way I'll be able to finish my particular program.

I am determined to start making some headway on the debt we've racked up from business start up and figure out some other ways to keep us ahead on our bills.  Yes, we're budgeting.  Yes, we're using a spending plan.  Yes, we've cut out excessive spending.  It's been a challenge, but I feel good about knowing we're chipping away at it little by little.  We're really thinking "thrift" when it comes to planning for little one--we're going to use some cloth diapers to cut down on costs,  making our own baby food when it comes time for that, and we'll be making our own baby wipes.  I wish I were crafty enough to try making my own cloth diapers (the all in one style. . . but I'm not so handy with a sewing machine).

So--what do you do to save on cash?  How do you pinch your pennies?

Friday, December 14, 2012

I think I'm going to try this!

Peppermint Candy Ornaments

What You’ll Need: -Mints -A cookie sheet -Parchment paper -An oven-Cookie Cutters

How to Make It:1. Heat your oven to 350 degrees F. 2. Arrange your mints on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet. Your mints should be roughly ¼ inch apart, leaving some extra room on the sides for melting.  I hear you should get the "cheap" mints that are not swirled all the way to the middle! 
3. Bake it for approximately 5-7 minutes.4.  Once it’s out of the oven, let it cool slightly (30 sec) and use cookie cutters to cut into shapes.

I'll give it a whirl and post some photos.  I got this idea from The Chew.

It's a sad day

It is a sad day in the world.  Now, I know what some of you are thinking. . . you're thinking I'm referring to this horrible tragedy.  Well, I'm not.  I'm referring to another friend of mine, barely married a month and now filing for divorce.  She really thought she knew the guy she was with and then *BAM* something changed or suddenly emerged.  Divorce is something I have a hard time understanding.  Don't take that to mean that I believe I'm better than others.  I mean I just don't understand it.  It doesn't make sense to me--at all.  One would think I would have a better understanding of divorce since part of my job includes working with divorced parents and helping them parent together, even though they are no longer with each other.  But, I don't.  It breaks my heart when I hear of people getting divorced.  Heck, it saddened me when I heard my now husband and his ex-wife were getting a divorce (I was friends with one of his brothers).  Of course, now, I'm reconsidering THAT particular sadness  but, you get the drift.

What is it our society that leads to so many people breaking such an important promise to each other?  Yes, I get the obvious answers: people change, cheating, drug/alcohol abuse, marriage too soon, marriage to young, etc. But, I guess what I really wonder is what is the real reason?  I mean, is it that people are not truly clear on what they want?  Is that people don't know their spouse as much as they thought they did?  Or is it that the important things in life just differ too much between each person?  The way I see it is that the divorce is really a symptom of a bigger problem.  What do you think?  What is the real problem?  Why do so many people get divorced?  Is the idea of marriage "dead" in our society?

Monday, December 10, 2012

You know who you are!

You know who you are.  You are the people who have been there for Hubby and I during this very, very, very aggravating year.  You have lifted us up during some pretty rough patches and we hope that someday we'll be able to repay your generosity with as much grace and understanding as you've given.  There are many of you, and I won't name names, because that can cause a certain level of embarrassment to some, but do know we are so very grateful for your kindness, your compassion, and your helpful nature!

When folks act selflessly it makes me take a step back and look at my own life.  What have I done lately to make someone's day?  Did I take the time to make sure others around felt appreciated? Cared for?  Listened to?  Have I taken the time to give the sort of gifts that truly matter--being there when someone needs me?  I hope I have, but I often wonder if there is more I could do.  More I could give of myself?

This year has gotten me thinking about next year and what promise 365 new days might hold.  There will be a new addition in our home.  We're all anxiously waiting for her.  We're hoping the series of unfortunate events that has struck this year will have worked themselves out before Little One arrives. . . .or at least will be well on their way to turning a corner into the positive.

These next 365 days bring hope of getting the Ph.D. back on track.  I'm so close I can taste it and I feel driven to finish, so I will continue that quest to pinch pennies as much as I can and get creative.  A colleague at the University feels that I am compelled to do research so she has declared that I must finish so I can start studying children and families!

When I think about hope for the future, I'm not talking about New Year's resolutions per se.  I'm really thinking about tackling life little by little and striving to do better as a human.  I see too much tragedy around me to not make the most of the life I have been given and that is certainly something I want to instill in the kiddos.

What are your hopes for the next 365 days?  Has someone shown you kindness?  Generosity?  How will you let them know the impact they've had on your life? What will you strive to do better?  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Frugal Holidays. . . .

This year, FRUGAL is the theme for the holidays.  Money is tight in my household.  Hubby is off work from an injury and I'm trying to figure out how to pay for the rest of the Ph.D, so I figure we need to improvise this year.  So--I've been PINTERSTING (can that be a verb now?)  like crazy to find ways to make holiday gifts for my family and friends.  The trick, however, is that I am trying to make things with spending VERY little money.  One of my favorite blogs right now is Homemade Mamas.  They have this very cool thing going on where they are demonstrating how to make 12 different gifts for the holidays.  I might just try some of them out. :-) I found some (40!) other neat homemade gift ideas here.  My personal favorites being the cookie cutter candles, unfortunately, I don't think they satisfy my "very little money" qualifier.  Pinterest has many pins dedicated to handmade gifts, but I like how this one is organized the best. I also found the 137 Inexpensive, handmade post at Craftynest really interesting too.  So--with all these choices, what should I make?!

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Maybe it's the desperation talking?!

Well I'm not sure if it's because I'm trying to creatively figure out how to pay for my Ph.D. (those of you who know me well, might say that SHOULD be the LEAST of my concerns right now, but it's not) OR if I am just in a state of, "I'll do just about ANYTHING (LEGAL, people, legal)" to make some extra dough but. . .I've signed up for a GOB of survey/freebie/read this paid e-mail web sites.  I'll add the links below, but my true question is. . . . Did I just set myelf up?  Will I really make any extra cash on these sites?  Did I just scam myself? 

I came across most of these sites while looking for ways to score myself some samples and/or coupons for  baby products (like diapers).  I am a cheapskate (it's true!) by nature and seem to never be able to turn down a sample.  Turns out, I'm not the only one like this because there are many websites dedicated to signing up for free samples. 

So, back to the question at hand, "Will I ever make any money on these websites?"  Check them out below and let me know what you think!


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

I was reading the Ph.D tips blog today after searching the terms, "Ph.D+stress."   The author asked a pretty important question, "Why put yourself through the stress to qualify for a minimum wage job?"  As I consider whether or not to really push on with the Ph.D (after, of course, I figure out how to continue to pay for it), this is something I've considered.  I've been hired at the University level with a Master's degree, so do I REALLY need to keep going?  What are the positives to keeping going?  What the negatives?  At this point, I'm not sure keeping going is going to mean a higher income for me in the future.  What I do know is that I'll end up with some debt, some stress, and less time with my family.  On the other hand, what sort of message am I sending to my family if I quit?  I'm very clearly sending the message that when things get tough, it's okay to bail.  I also won't get to have the sense of satisfaction of walking across the stage or having the letters, Ph.D after my name.  I'm certainly not the only one who has thought about this.  My search came up with 24, 800,000 results.  Many of which share the horrors of working on one's Ph.D.  For instance, this author writes, "The cost of my Ph.D? Stress, nothing but stress," and this author writes, "If you are naturally someone who worries, then being a PhD student gives you plenty of opportunities to exercise your habit."  

So, I ask you, given the amount of stress I feel during the Ph.D process, is it worth busting my hump to figure out how to pay for the rest of my education? 

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Need a little help

I need a little help figuring out how to pay for the rest of my Ph.D. since I have just about reached my aggregate limit for my student loans.  Unfortunately, I did not figure out how close I was to my limit until I registered for my next term.  Getting close to my aggregate limit means that I have a small amount I'm still able to take out in Unsubsidized Student Loans, but after that I have to find other funding.

I have looked into the following options at this point:

Right now, my only option seems to be a direct loan and I'm not excited about that option.  Frankly, I have been tinkering with the idea of stopping my Ph.D. all together.  It's a conversation that Hubby and I have had several times and I always come to the conclusion that I should persist.  However, now that I am not sure how I'm going to pay for the rest of my degree, I'm thinking a little more seriously about becoming a Ph.D drop out.  Especially after reading this article at The Chronicle of Higher Education. 

Having a Master's Degree has opened the door for my newest endeavors:  developing curriculum for a for-profit college and working for a university in Wisconsin.  At this point, I'm not sure if finishing the Ph.D is going to be worth the cost, especially if I take out another sort of loan.  Thankfully, if I continue my work with this particular University (which is considered a non profit) I will be eligible for student loan forgiveness.

So, what do I do?  Any creative ideas? 

What Happened?!

I have a couple of blogs that I have decided have run their course.  The first called, Play for Life, can be found here.  I will continue to update this blog from time to time, but I have decided that since it is connected to my old g-mail account (the one I had before I got married), that it is time to move on.  I've also decided to retire my Early Childhood Educator's blog, Bristle Blocks and Fire Trucks.  Again, this blog was created during my time as a classroom teacher with Head Start and I've moved into some other roles since that time.  Finally, I've decided to retire the Penny Pincher Primer, mainly because I haven't posted in it since 2009!

So--what will be the focus of this blog?  I'm not sure yet.  There's a lot I could write about.  Play For Life took a very different turn when I became a wife and step parent.  It took another turn when Hubby and I started to discuss having our own child.  What I haven't written about is my journey as a Ph.D student.  I may go in that direction.  I'm just not sure at this point.  So. . . my friends, what do YOU think I should write about in this new journey?  I look forward to this blogging journey and hope you'll stop back soon. :-)