I really quite liked this episode for some reason. It was certainly not epic (esp by TVD standards) but something about whispered asides if viewed with a friend in a crowded movie theater) (because yes., I am that person):about it was charming. Don’t ask me what. Here is my play by play of the bits that caught my fancy (and would have brought

1. Meredith is still a psycho. I am just waiting for the crazy. This first scene with the so-called Mer-Elena bonding is CREEPY. Much more so than Alaric/Elena hugs or MRI mirror hijinks.
2. Love Damon showing up at the hospital to spring his buddy. This friendship is probably one of the most organic and honest ones in the whole show.
3.  So nice to get back to the snappy confrontational Delena! Much better than puppy dog Damon. I have faith that they will find their way back to a romance again, but this time Damon will stay true to who he is and Elena will have her eyes open and accept him as he is without changing him. My fave line of the episode: “I’m just saying, maybe you’re not the right person to be teaching Stefan about self-control” Ouch! Isn’t it great too see Elena being perceptive? So true…..when has Damon EVER used self-control?!
4. Abby-the vampire-absentee mom. Seriously snooze. Apparently all the pent-up broody from Stefan’s ripper days in the writers room fell onto Abby. Bummer.
5. Why ARE they at the bridge restoration kick-off?
6. Sage is just lame. Especially when you put her in the same scene as Rebekah. It’s sad really. Cassidy just doesn’t stand a chance compared to Claire. Maybe if Sage had been in love with Elijah. But Finn?  
7.  Seriously Stefan, just stop trying to ACT bad already. We all know the ripper Stefan is gone. Which is very very sucky. But this fake-half-ripper Stefan who is hiding his true feelings so that Elena can be free? Very annoying and totally transparent. Just be good Stefan again since Ripper Stefan is not likely to come back anytime soon. At least he made sense. 
8.  Oh Damon, you are so easily played by sexy women. Katherine, Sage, Elena, etc……
9. Damn you TVD with your threesome teases. I hate you.
10.  I hate that Jenna is gone. Alaric was a real character with her. Psycho ring-killer and Meredith is NOT an acceptable exchange for Jenna’s meaningless sacrifice. Poor choice Kevin and Julie.
11. Interesting how Damon mentions a Sage-Rebekah threesome to Stefan and yet no one has told Stefan that Sage is in town. And no response? Interesting continuity gap there.
12. Even on the first viewing I AUDIBLY rolled my eyes with that “you know, the one you’re not related to” *twinkly eyes* — ugh.
13. HONESTLY? No one put Jaime on vervain?
14. Pathetic predictable attention-desperate Rebekah? I don’t buy it. Let’s not subvert the character’s …. character…. for plot devices please.
15. I’ve watched too much OTH. Cassidy Freeman reminds me too much of Hilarie Burton…..and unfortunately I can’t help thinking about the little differences she might play the character with…and would it be better?
16. Kat Graham is awesome. The nuances she gives Bonnie are so intuitive, it’s such a shame that they don’t utilize her more. 
17. I think Damon luring and sleeping with Rebecca solely to allow Sage to sneak into her mind is the most cold-blooded thing we’ve seen him do this entire series. Makes me quite hate him in that moment when he is naked in bed with her sleep-ing beside him. 
18. Aww business-knowledgeable Damon. You mean he has more going on than whiskey-drinking, eye-flirting, neck-snapping, and Stefan-haunting? So cute.
19. Handy how the millling ledgers report “White Oak” in capitals to emphasize it’s importance, huh?
20. Oh Kevin Williamson. This episode was like a dream for you right? The perfect combo of small-town romantic triangle intrigue and slasher film. I heart you.
21. Oh Damon. What about Sage seemed trustworthy….EVER…..to you?
22. Yay! Snarky Rebekah returns! The only question is….was she in it from the start? Cuz that would make more sense than pathetic gullible Becca.
23. Sage is 900 years old. Why does she look concerned at ALL when Damon says he’ll kill Finn first? And why on EARTH doesn’t she rip his head off right then and there?
24. 2nd fave line of the ep: “I’m going to need your help” You know, Elena. To stop Ripper Stefan from making a reappearance. Aww Elena gets her wish….her very existence can alter Stefan’s actions. Cuz it’s about her, right?
25.  More adorable bromance. Nice creepy watching Alaric sleeping smile Damon. Maybe you and Alaric should both take a break from girls for awhile. Just saying….
26. Bonnie’s not stupid. She knows that without Elena and Caroline and all the other supernatural residents of Mystic Falls….she’s got nobody. Even if she hates everything all of them stand for.
27. Even as a plot device, Caroline is a shining light. Candice is brilliant and every line is full of life and authenticity. She literally can take my breath away with the beauty and power she exudes – even when her scene has absolutely nothing to do with her.
28. I don’t believe for a single second that Jeremy is happily and blithely living in Denver with friends and a dog. Just because they didn’t pan to him as a psycho or with Tyler or Katherine or who knows what doesn’t mean a thing. All will be revealed soon enough.
29. Cocky – good? – Stefan. Hmm. It’s like Ripper Stefan…but creepy.
30. lol to the token and trademark Damon master plan-o-the-week reveal in the last minute. Oh Damon, you and your clever plans.  So sweet. It’s almost like Elena thinking she can sacrifice herself for the good of everyone else without completely screwing it up and getting someone killed.

Not a lot happened in this episode (again). It was more just a number of great little moments mixed with wry humor at the show itself. But it’s winding closer to the end of S3 so I anticipate a crazy whirlwind of plot twists and cliffhangers and shocking deaths and violent actions and dramatic emotional declarations to start up at any time!

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Ok, so as you may have realized, one of the key aspects in my great house plan 2012 is to cut back on my grocery budget. WHAT? you say? You’re already a crazy coupon lady! How are you going to save MORE? This sounds worrisome.What I realized though, is that while I AM saving a TON of money off of shelf price (and even sale price many times), I still was buying too much stuff and spending money on things I wouldn’t use or was going to give away. (Even if it did seem like little amounts here and there) Little amounts add up, especialy when you shop multiple stores every week. And since it does seem like so little, it is easy to lose track of. And then you realize that as a single person who does NOT eat out a ton or buy fancy expensive food….you’ve still managed to spend over $300 per month on food in the last year. Which is just…..not necessary.

So I am officially cutting back. I was already cutting back a bit at the drugstores especially because I know that I am fully stocked on household/toiletries for like 6-18 months. I have for the most part been managing to only buy free or moneymaker items there. Now I am cutting back on food spending too. This doesn’t mean that I am going to change the way I eat or start subsisting on ramen and peanut butter and rice. It just means I will eat from my freezer and stockpile, buy produce mindfully, and coupon carefully and consciously. Last week was an excellent start….mostly because it was a quiet week at the stores so I didn’t buy much. This week was busier, but look how well I did!

I shopped at 3 stores: Albertson’s, Safeway, and Fred Meyer.

Albertson’s
It was a doublers week but with my new guidelines….it was so slow! I had barely enough items on my original list to use all the doublers I get with my newspaper subscription (18) and one item was out of stock, one was an incorrect coupon, and another I couldn’t find at all. In the end, I only used 8 doublers and gave the rest away at the store for others to use.

All for $0.30!

(4) Single paper towel rolls
(2) Mission artisan tortillas
(2) 4-pack Activia yogurt
Total: $0.30! (tax on paper towels)

Safeway
Time to use up my rainchecks that had coupons that expire on 3/31!  I had a raincheck for POM juice and one for (6) Fresh Express salad kits. I LOVED these kits 2-3 weeks ago when I first got them. I spent a couple weeks eating my first 6 bags, then took a week off and cleared out some other food from the fridge. Now ready for more! Luckily another great sale came along to take advantage of also….

$3.26 before cereal rebate!

(4) Corn Flakes @ $1.99 w/ in-ad coupon
(1) Kiwi – $0.33ea
used $4/4 Kellogg’s cereal printable
used $1 off fruit wyb 3 Kellogg’s cereals (found in a box of the Raisin bran from a couple weeks ago)
= $3.26
PLUS!! I got a catalina coupon for a free milk up to $4 for buying 4 Kellogg’s items! Sometimes these coupons will scan for a flat $4 rather than have the cashier enter in the actual amount of the milk….so it could be a moneymaker item.
(4) POM juice – free w/ raincheck (actually a $0.03 moneymaker)
(6) Fresh Express salad kits – free with raincheck
Total: $3.26 paid

Fred Meyer
I was quite torn between Fred Meyer and Safeway this week in regards to using my (2) $4/4 Kellogg’s coupons. Such great deals either way. I decided to split and do one at each to get a little of each store’s promos. Fred Meyer was doing a Save $5 instantly wyb 10 items promo which can be a pain to get the right number of qualifying items to coupons to end up with a great deal. An amazing deal came my way though this week!

Fred Meyer: $8.35 (4.35 after MIR)

(4) Rice Krispies @ 1.99
(3) Fuji apples = $1
(5) Kraft Fresh takes cheese + breadcrumbs mixes @ 1.79
(1) Country Crock margarine @ 0.99
used $4/4 Kellogg’s cereal printable
used $1 off fruit wyb 3 Kellogg’s cereals (found in a box of the Raisin bran from a couple weeks ago)
used (5) $1/1 Kraft Fresh Takes from insert
used $1/1 Country crock printable
Total: $7.90, received a $4 catalina from Kraft cheese!

Then I bought:
5lb bag of whole carrots @ 2.69 ea
1 large bunch celery @ $0.91 ea
1 pear @0.85 ea
used $4 catalina from 1st transaction
Total: $0.45
Store total: $8.35

_____________________________________________________________________

My grand total for the week?

$11.91!

But wait, it gets better! I will submit the (8) cereal UPCs for the Kellogg’s $10 wyb 10 rebate. So essentially, that is another $8 off. So it equals $3.91 for all of that!! I mean seriously, it doesn’t get much better than that. Look at what I bought:

Fresh veggies (carrots, celery, salads)
Fresh fruit (apples, kiwi, pear)
Cheese
Tortillas
Cereal x 8 boxes
Margarine
Juice
Yogurt
Milk
Paper towels

And something nice for my savings budget? I used a $10 visa card from a previously submitted Kellogg’s rebate to pay for my purchases this week. So all I paid out of pocket (and all that I will apply towards my March grocery budget?):

$1.91

That’s right.

~Lissa

Resolution strong

March 14, 2012

Well! So far, March is progressing QUITE nicely. 🙂

I have spoken with a real estate agent, he will be keeping an eye out for potential properties and be ready for me whenever I see something I want to look at or know more about. I spoke with a mortgage broker, she is very optimistic that I should qualify for a very good interest rate and possibly even a 5% downpayment (though I want to put down at least 10%). I don’t think that I should have trouble getting finance for the amount of loan I am looking at as I am pretty conservative in my own wishes. I have a list of documentation to gather for her….including the lease for my tenants (which I need to revise and send to them to sign and send back) and my 2011 taxes (which I haven’t done yet – eek!). So it will probably be a week or two for me to get that all put together for the preapproval. Which is fine!

I also looked at my expenditures last year for groceries/household items/pet items/dining out. They were MUCH higher than I had assumed! I spent on average $311/month on these categories combined. Yikes! While I was saving with couponing over shelf costs, I was still buying more than normal + lots of veggies. I also ate out quite a bit more than my usual last year what with going to the little Italian restaurant by my house to study and also once  a week to study group as well as on vacations. The good news? I have a fully stocked house and plenty of room to cut back and save money here! My original plan was to cut back by $50/mo but now I am aiming to spend only $180/mo on these categories – a savings of $130/mo.

Here’s the House Downpayment Savings Standings for the first 2 weeks of March:
1. PAH jobs:  a petsit job = $120 net
2. Relief shifts: 14hr shift last night + a 12hr shift next Sunday = $435 net
3. Extra hours: staff meeting today = $25 net
4. Grocery running total: Spent so far: $32. Left in budget for March: $148. Savings over last year:  $279

Directly saved so far: $580 + $120+ in grocery savings. Woot woot! We are well on our way!

My house plan

March 8, 2012

For quite a while (probably about a year now) I have been rolling around the idea of possibly buying a house. Now, mind you, I ALREADY own a house. It is about 2 hours south, in the “country”. I bought it 8 years ago in 2004 just after I graduated from college. It seemed like a good idea at the time, and it has turned out to be a fantastic investment that I have not regretted for a second. I am so glad I bought it when I did. The house is a good little house but the job market within commuting distance kinda dried up as I grew up and moved up in my career. 2 years ago I left the house behind, found trustworthy faithful long-term renters to take care of it, and moved north, back into an apartment.

I like my apartment. I LOVE the location in a small waterfront town just north of Seattle and only 20 minutes or so from my job. My windows overlook a treeline and burbling creek (drainage stream). I am one door down from the lovely city park. I am 4 blocks off of the quaint downtown area, and only 6 blocks from the waterfront. This town buried in surburbia only steps away from the big city has a small artsy community feel to it. I have fallen in love.

Affordable houses are not easy to come by There are plenty of aparmtents, and condos in all price ranges. But houses? They tend to be more spendy….in the 200,000-500,000 range. I can’t afford a 200,000 mortgage….or the 20-40,000 for a downpayment on one. I wasn’t totally sure that I could either afford to buy a house here, would want to save that hard and long for a downpayment, or even REALLY wanted to buy a 2nd house. I had already decided I wouldn’t sell my 1st house. I love it too much and plan to “retire” there eventually.

But my circumstances have changed for the better recently. I got $3/hr in raises this fall. I am refinancing my 1st house into a lower interest rate, saving ~$80/mo. I upped my tenant’s rent. I have areas where I can cut spending. My business is well grounded and has some level of reliable minimum income. I no longer HAVE to take extra shifts to meet my budget. So there is suddenly some flexibility that allows for more substantial savings with less extra work and less time required than just a year ago.

So I have started on the steps towards buying a house. I want it within about a mile radius of where I am now, which is a quite small area to be searching. I want it for $150,000 or less, which means I will not be buying a fair market value house. I will definitely be buying a bank-owned, foreclosed, auctioned, or short sale. So I will have to be very very careful with inspections and what I am willing and not willing to put up with. It will likely take several months to even find a handful of possibles. It may easily be a year or more before I find the right house. Which is fine because it gives me more time to save for the downpayment. The longer it takes to find the house, the more money I will have saved, the larger downpayment I can put down, so the higher priced house I can buy, leading to more houses in my price range. On the other hand, I do have enough existing savings that I could put down a 10% downpayment (if I finangle that approval-wise) on a 130,000 house right now. If the perfect one appeared.

In making my estimates and assessments, I took a 10 month timeline into account. This is when my lease is up at my apartment and when I would likely start looking quite in earnest if something hasn’t appeared before then. I was actually quite surprised at how much I would be able to put aside in savings in that amount of time — and for not that much more effort! Here is my House Downpayment Savings Plan:

Estimated Home Loan: $150,000

Estimated Downpayment Required: 10-20% ($15,000-$30,000)

Goal Timeframe: 10 months (January 2013)

Current Savings:  $5,000-$10,000

Goal Additional Savings:  $10,000-$20,000

Savings Plan

(With below numbers = $15,630-$18,630 saved)

1. Refinance Yelm house: ~$80/mo + 1 month no payment = $1836

2. Use ING direct checking account, accruing interest: @0.2%*3800 = $0.63/mo = $7

3. Roll interest from ING savings accounts: $77 in 2011, est. $160 in 2012 = $237

4. Roll rewards from Discover: $380 in 2012, est. $100 in 2012 = $480

5. Put all PAH income into downpayment fund: est. $3000 in 2012

6. Take 1-2 relief shifts/mo: $200-250/shift = $200-500/mo = $2,000-$5,000 in 2012

7. Analyze grocery/household spending, cut by at least $50/mo = $600 in savings/2012

8. Put all couponing rebates into downpayment fund: average $15/mo = $180 in 2012

8. Maintain current savings of $1,000/mo, moving it to $600/mo in downpayment fund = $7,200 in 2012

Total Estimated Savings by Jan 2013: $20,630-$28,630

Estimated loan potential:

Home purchase price: $133,000-$150,000

Downpayment %: 15-20%

Downpayment amount: $20,000-$30,000

Closing costs: $3,000-$5,000

Loan amount: $116,000-$123,000

Est. property taxes: $1500/yr

Est. home insurance: $1000/yr

Est. monthly payment: $900/mo

So this thing is completely doable! I am very excited about the possibilities. I have a real estate agent keeping an eye on the listings. My next step is to contact a mortgage broker about financing pre-approval to see what deals I can swing. Now that I have made this decision and researched its feasibility, I am REALLY looking forward to getting into my own home…..with a washer/dryer…..and no carpets….and a yard. But I am in no hurry and I realize that with my location and price specifications, it could be quite awhile before the right opportunity comes along. I can wait. Like I said, I like my apartment just fine. 🙂

 

As you may have read last week, Rite Aid was doing another incredible UPR promo for the month of February. Dozens of products were included and when you spent $100, you’d get a $20 UPR. I looked through the deals with an eye towards getting this UPR. But I didn’t want to break my previous rule about only buying items that are entirely free, a moneymaker, or something I will actually use and need that is still not much OOP.

Well this last week concluded the promotion and here’s the final rundown!  Prices are after tax, and after all UPR & SCR earned.

Week 1:
(2) Stayfree – 0.43MM
(1) Abreva – 8.76
OOP: 8.83 (I didn’t have any previous ups to apply)
Leftover: (2) $2 UPR, (1) $2 SCR
Total to winter reward: $20

Week 2:
(4) Thermacare + (1) Optic White – $13.33 MM (after Pfizer rebate)
(4) Snickers eggs – $1MM
(2) Haribo gummy raspberries – $1.16
(1) Pot-of-gold – $0.99 (The winter reward says Valentine’s candy are excluded but judging by my total, this must have been included in the winter reward!)
OOP: $15.97 (used $4 UPR from week one)
Leftover: (2) $4 UPR, (1) 1.75 UPR, (1) $10 UPR, (1) $2 UPR, submit $10 UPR for Pfizer
Total to winter reward: $54

Week 3:
(4) Colgate toothpaste + (5) Colgate toothbrushes – $4.04 MM
OOP: $12.21 (used $2, $10, and $1.75 UPR from week two. I need to call customer service about getting my 2 $4 UPR from the thermacare)
Leftover: (4) $3.50 UPR, (4) $1.50 UPR, (1) $10 UPR.
Total to winter reward: $93

Initially the $3.50 UPR x 4 from the toothpaste didn’t print on my receipt, so had them returned and bought them over again. Weirdly, it  counted them twice for the winter rewards total. I figured when you returned something with your card, it would subtract it from the running total, but not so far. It might do so the next time I’m at the store though, sometimes it takes a bit to process. I’m not going to work too hard to correct it, as I have had issues every single week with UPR not printing. I have to call customer service about 3 different weeks of shopping to have UPR credited to me that are missing ($36 in total – eek!).

Week 4:
(1) Blink tears – $0.24 MM
OOP: $0.57 (I bought some Valentine’s clearance stuff and used the $10 UPR from week 3)
Leftover: (1) $7.50 SCR, received $20 Winter Resolutions UPR

Total OOP expense for promotion: $37.58
Total actual cost after UPR/rebates: $28.13 MONEYMAKER!!!

That’s right folks, in the end everything I bought that was in this promotion was a moneymaker except for a little bit of candy (deeply discounted) and Abreva (at about 50% off shelf price). And I MADE $28 dollars doing it! What will I buy with $28?? I honestly don’t know, probably some cheap Easter candy! Maybe a nice picture frame for my VECCS certificate/diploma. We’ll see 😀

So one of the coupon blogs that I follow closely is a local blogger (as in she shops the exact store locations that I do). www.couponconnectionsnw.com is a very popular blog in the Pacific NW, Amber was featured on TLC’s Extreme Couponing (but don’t get me started on THAT show!) and she is a very prolific poster of deals. She also loves to have reader interaction and seeing pics/details when readers do great shopping trips. I was SO excited about my haul from last weekend’s doublers at Albertson’s that I sent an email off to her…..and she posted it on her blog!!  It’s so great to have that recognition as well as a bit of bragging rights. 😀 Here’s the link to the blog post on couponconnections:

http://couponconnections.com/2012/02/check-out-what-lissa-got-at-albertsons-for-only-18-44/

And here’s the picture of my haul! I used 36 doublers, doing 4 different sets of 3 transactions. I actually did go to 4 different stores over 2 different days (trying to find a certain item on my list mostly) but I didn’t go out of my way, just took different routes to other errands. Sometimes when I do doubler weeks, I just do multiple trips back and forth from the car all in the same shopping session. Just depends on the stock in the particular store and what other errands I have to do that week.

The grand total for this? $18.44!!!! I mean, seriously!!

All this, only $18.44!

(16) Oikos greek yogurt
(2) Yoplait lactose-free yogurt
(3) Peanut butter Cheerios
(4) Bear Creek soup
(4) Albertson’s canned beans
(2) Tylenol precise cream
(2) Right Guard deodorant
(1) Kashi go lean bar
(6) Blue Diamond almonds (raincheck from last week)
(6) Doritos
(2) Trop50 orange juice
(2) Quaker chewy granola bars
(4) Mt. Olive pickles
(2) Mission artisan tortillas
(2) Stride gum
(3) V8 v-fusion
(2) Cranberry naturals juice
(13) boxes Mischief Jello gelatin (clearance)
(3) small boxes conversation hearts (clearance)
(3) wineglasses (clearance)
(1) wisk (clearance)

My favorite transaction of them all was one that I put together totally on my own, using tearpad coupons that I had in my binder for months now just WAITING for the right confluence of events. It all worked together in a perfect storm of promotions! A lot of times when doing couponing, I’m just copy & pasting matchups from the various blogs I follow, it’s nice to have the opportunity to “discover” a totally new deal that is unique just to you.

(3) V8 V-Fusion – $2 each
(10) Mischief Jello gelatin – $0.25 each on clearance!
(1) Wine glass – $0.25 on clearance
-Used (5) $0.55/2 Jello tearpad coupons (found these by the Jello a few weeks ago)
-Used (3) $1 off any juice wyb 3 Mischief jello tearpad coupons (found these MONTHS ago when this product first came out…..they are good til 12/12 so I’ve been hanging onto them – score!)
-Used (3) doublers (-$3 total)
Paid: Nothing! The overage from the jello coupons covered the cost of the wine glass – bonus! Albertson’s is one of the only stores that will give overage – but only with manufacturer coupons, not including doublers.
Got: $2 catalina from V8
Final Price: $2 moneymaker!

This transaction (one of 12 that I did) combines several key promotions that are the basic elements in successful “extreme” couponing:

1. Store sale – the V8 was on a loss leader sale at only $2 each
2. Clearance deals – This particular Jello product was new 6 months ago and obviously not a big seller, so it was on clearance for a steep discount. It can be common to see high value tearpad coupons for new products (often with lengthy expiration dates), and many new products do not sell well and may end up in the clearance racks a few months later – excellent opportunity for great deals!
3. Coupons! – ok, pretty obvious one here
4. Doubler or other store coupon – Albertson’s is the only store in my area that routinely offers in-store coupons that double the value of your manufacturer coupon. Also in this category would be store coupons you find in the weekly sales flyers, anything that you can stack with a manufacturer coupon to increase your coupon savings!
5. Catalina – this is a coupon for an X $amount off of your next transaction (oyno) that prints at the register when you pay. It is generally triggered by buying a certain number of a product. These type of catalinas can be redeemed like cash at the same store you received them at and so you can factor them in to the overall final cost of the items you bought to trigger them.

Obviously, this is a pretty complex transaction and definitely not for the faint of heart. I would call this an advanced couponer level deal…..putting it together requires a bit of out of the box thinking (and math skills) and even just following what is happening it is easy to get confused! Luckily all the coupons went through with no issues and it was just a gorgeous transaction from start to finish….quite a shopping “high”!