An Unexpected Benefit of Portable Solar

As I’ve mentioned several times on Frugal Accomplishments posts, my husband and I received Goal Zero solar panels for Christmas from my folks. These nifty little portable solar panels, called the Nomad 7, are meant to be small and lightweight so you can tuck them into a pack for outdoor activities. Each of our Nomad 7’s fold up to be the size of a tablet device and they are meant to charge small devices like cell phones, tablets, and the like. While we’re very, very happy with how the Nomad 7 chargers work out for us, we’ve noticed something: they do not charge a smart phone with any speed. Want to use the “fast charge” setting on your device? Better plug it into the wall. Depending on how low our batteries are, it could take several hours to charge our phones, even in direct sunlight.

But you know what I’ve found? Continue reading

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 11 February 2018

Y’all, I am SO EXCITED to share our frugal accomplishments for last week! I know a lot of them will look a little silly to those who don’t know me personally, but suffice it to say I had a grand time playing around with some new apps and look forward to using them to save. Without further ado, here’s my contribution to Frugal Accomplishments for the week, hosted by the lovely Brandy at The Prudent Homemaker! Before we begin – just a quick note that this post contains affiliate links. They are clearly defined as affiliate links (in bold, even). No pressure – but if you use one, I’ll sure be grateful to you!

  • Used a museum membership to visit the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (this time we walked the opposite of our route from our first trip, so we got to see the animals we didn’t see the first time!)
  • Mailed the documents to my daughter’s father for reimbursement of orthodontia and oral surgery. Hopefully all of that sum will be back by summer time.
  • Checked out books and DVDs at the libraries and used Overdrive to read e-books.
  • Noticed two library books in daughter’s room – I checked the checkout slip and they were due within the next day, so I returned them for her while in town so she wouldn’t get overdue fees.
  • Went to check out a locally owned shop for a baby gift and received a military discount on my purchases.
  • Signed up for Amazon Prime after discussion with husband about possible benefits; he has watched several shows he wanted to see using it and I have made two purchases and received “free” shipping. (Pre-paid is more how I think of it, but either way, it’s useful.)
  • Received coupons from my mom – took what we will use and shared the rest with a friend.
  • Received magazines in the same box – read through them and then passed them on to my friend to enjoy as well.
  • Went to purchase DayQuil at the base store; the generic was $3.49 per box while actual DayQuil was $7.99 a box. I bought two generics instead of one name-brand box and now my flu supplies are stocked up. (I couldn’t order DayQuil or NyQuil through the Walgreens website recently). Paid no tax due to being on base.
  • I’ve been looking for a better First Aid kit bag for my truck after using it recently and having things fall out – my husband got an email from Tactical Tailor for 50% off, but the bag they offered was still over $100. Researching further, I found a bag from Voodoo Tactical (another company I trust) for much less on Amazon – so I was able to use a leftover gift card balance to purchase that bag and a set of EMT shears & pupil light for no out of pocket payment. (One of my two “free” shipping purchases.)
  • Sent my InboxDollars referral code to two friends; downloaded the InboxDollars app and got some “Spin & Win” opportunities since I didn’t qualify for some paid surveys. Earned a nickel on a Spin & Win. Learned to follow the InboxDollars Facebook page to watch for extra earnings codes. [If you are interested in joining InboxDollars and would like to help me earn a bit as well, click here for my affiliate link.]
  • Signed up for Ibotta using a friend’s referral link, which created a $10 bonus offer for me (when I meet a certain minimum); downloaded the app, and started learning how to load my favorite stores and choose offers. True confession: I spent a good couple of hours geeking out on these two apps this weekend! Plus I kept texting my girlfriends about offers and things they might want to look up – I’m sure I drove everyone crazy, but I thought it was really fun! Then I made my first purchase and earned $0.70 cents back – I needed to restock a supplement and there was an Amazon offer on health and beauty items. I probably still look really strange trying to figure out some of these smart phone things (picture the most confused person you know staring at a device and tapping with one finger – they look cooler than me, I bet haha), but I got it figured out – and then I celebrated my seventy cent refund! Plus free shipping – that was the second Prime purchase. (Too bad I didn’t know to sign up for Prime FROM the ibotta app – that would have been a good rebate offer too!) [If you are interested in joining Ibotta and would like to help me earn a bit as well, click here for my affiliate code. You should see a message about a $10 bonus option like I did.]
  • Filed our federal income tax return using the FreeFile option; found out we don’t need to file a state income tax return due to active duty status. We will be receiving a refund, so we agreed again on the plan for the bulk of it (paying a large principal payment on my husband’s car, our only debt) and discussed using the rest to pick up some items on our “want” shopping list.
  • Received 3 free magazine downloads on Kindle Unlimited.
  • Pulled books from my shelves and our homeschool books to take to the local bookshop with my kids’ items – anything the owner is interested in will be store credit, helping her build inventory and helping us offset costs for books and gifts in the future.
  • Filled the car and the truck with $1 off per gallon fuel points.
  • Ate leftovers from dinners as lunches; daughter packed lunches and snacks for school most days and used some of her own babysitting cash for lunch one day.
  • Researched Coupons.com and found out they have an app – I’m going to look into using that instead of printing coupons at home, in order to save on ink.
  • Used drying racks for most loads of laundry; I had a large load for my husband’s and my laundry so I took the heaviest/largest items and put them in the dryer (with wool dryer balls, which help cut drying time) and dried the rest of the load on rack. Normally I’d put the heavy items on our second rack, but I don’t have pins that will fit over the larger diameter rods, and it was too windy to just lay things over them like I usually do. (Needless to say, some larger clamps of some sort are on the “want to buy” list! LOL)
  • Used homemade dishwasher soap in each load of dishes.
  • Charged our phones on the Goal Zero chargers whenever possible.
  • Did NOT attend a convention over the weekend that we had discussed going to. Even with the military discount they offered, we’d have been at $40 for the family to go. We used our museum membership (mentioned above) to have a prepaid outing instead.
  • Read e-books via Kindle Unlimited (still on free trial).
  • Cooked most meals at home from the pantry; made menu plan for this week’s dinners based on what was already on hand. I am specifically using up some canned soup and chili that my husband didn’t care for and told me to donate – I figure if I split them between all four of us and cook them with other items, we won’t mind the flavor as much (and the kids and I haven’t even tried them yet – we might actually like them). Tonight’s plan is chili dogs – I figure with a piece of bread, a hot dog, and some shredded cheese, the little bit of chili actually going on them can’t be all bad. Wish me luck with that plan….. 😉

Frugal Accomplishments ~ Week Ending 4 February 2018

Happy February, everyone! I am pretty excited to have a lengthy list for last week’s Frugal Accomplishments. A lot of them are tiny little things – but as with a to-do list, I love being able to write them down and look back at the list. It makes me feel like I really “DID” something with my days (or our money) on the days that I feel like I didn’t do “enough”. Do you ever feel like that too? Lists sure help fight it. We DO do enough – it’s just hard to remember some days. So here’s to the little things; like actual pennies, the little habits and choices sure add up!

As usual I’m sharing this link over on Brandy’s frugal accomplishments post at The Prudent Homemaker. This is one of my favorite parts of the week!

  • Homemade dishwasher detergent
  • Took my daughter shopping for foundation items – she desperately needed a fitting and some better quality than we had gotten previously in the base store, so we hit a department store. After a fitting and an hour of trying things on, she walked out with 6 new bras and a bottle of delicates wash. The ticket didn’t come up cheap, but hopefully these will last her longer (at almost 17, she shouldn’t have too many more growth spurts to come). The clerk was super helpful and pointed us to clearance items that were 65% off; we found two that fit and received an additional 10% off those. Then we found two that were 40% off. The last one was full price. (Boo!) We also learned that they have a collection box for used bras – a company washes and sanitizes them and provides them to women who need assistance getting clothing for job interviews. We will be taking my daughter’s old size bras and some of mine in for donation.
  • Wrote up my dinner menu plan using items on hand in the pantry/freezer.
  • Daughter rode with friends for church and youth activities.
  • My kids sorted through their books and I began sorting through mine to find titles that might be useful for the owner of the local bookshop – anything she does want will give each of us a bit of store credit. (Particularly exciting to me since she carries items other than books that make great gifts, so I can offset gift-giving costs the rest of the year.)
  • My husband and I discussed signing up for Amazon Prime and Kindle Unlimited; we’ve been Prime customers before, so I knew we had no free trial waiting, but when I signed up for Kindle Unlimited, I was given a free 30-day trial. Woohoo! I’ve already read a half dozen books for free through the Kindle Unlimited option.
  • Used our Goal Zero panels and vehicle chargers to charge phones. I figure I’m already running the truck to take my daughter to her GED class – it doesn’t use any noticeable extra diesel to plug in the phone for the drive. (I’m chasing that utility rebate from Housing every month! LOL)
  • Borrowed DVDs and books from the library (and made sure to turn them in right away to avoid late fees).
  • Dropped off glass recycling in town while already running errands in the drop site area.
  • Daughter packed lunches and snacks from home and carried a refilled water bottle to classes each day.
  • Researched the price of dog food online before going to get a bag for the pantry; I haven’t checked the prices in a while so I wanted to make sure the feed store still had the lowest price. (They did and I got it while already in the area.)
  • Used CrockPot for cooking dinner three days of the week. I’m finding it works really well for me to not only cook in it, but to reheat the leftovers I have scheduled.
  • Daughter found her “lost” student ID, avoiding a replacement fee. (She just happened to stick it in her binder instead of the usual spot she put it.)
  • Downloaded a free Kindle book.
  • Husband used fuel points to get $1 off per gallon filling his car.
  • I’ve kept a running list of items we need/want to buy (similar to the grocery list I keep going on the fridge) – as we found good deals on certain things, I picked them up.
  • Used drying rack instead of the electric dryer for several loads of laundry.
  • Bought groceries and some personal care items at Target and saved $13.66 using Cartwheel app (which I found out also includes manufacturer coupons – it’s VITAL to scan each item with the barcode reader in the app to check for additional coupons and discounts). The deodorant and body wash we bought were all part of a promotion to get a $5 gift card, plus one item had a manufacturer coupon. I also used a $5 gift card (earned on our last trip) and we saved on the 5% commissary surcharge on the food items (food tax is under 2%).
  • Got spare charger cords for our phones at Staples for $4 on clearance and $10 off a shredder. Our “want to buy” list included the charger cables – we wanted one for each vehicle and one for each of the little solar panels we received for Christmas. Our “NEED” list had the shredder. I chose a shredder that happened to be on sale and had picked up 4 cables at $9.99 each (they were less than the $14.99 buy one, get one half off option) – but I spotted some cables in the clearance area for $4 each. Sold! 🙂
  • Used the rest of a restaurant gift card from my folks to treat the kids to lunch after a very busy Friday morning.
  • Borrowed movies from a friend that the library didn’t have in their holdings.
  • Husband brought me seltzer at Wal-Mart while there getting something else – saving the commissary surcharge (more than 3% difference vs tax).
  • Husband ordered some professional gear for 50% off through a store that is closing.
  • Did NOT make purchases through the variety of sale emails I received – I just deleted them unopened unless the company offered something that is on our “to buy” list.
  • Did NOT go to the food co-op during military discount days as we couldn’t think of anything we truly needed there.
  • We splurged on to-go lunch from a favorite Mexican restaurant; the portions are so big that everyone ate leftovers for dinner that night (which extended my dinner menu plan by a day). The staff were super sweet and included several bags of tortilla chips and containers of salsa without us asking; they are serving as snacks for us now!
  • Used leftovers to stretch two meals. I had some rice and taco filling leftover from a dinner the prior week and popped it into the CrockPot with the rest of the ingredients while making chili – it actually made it some of the best chili I’ve made, so I’ll plan to do that another week. (On purpose then. LOL) Another night I had planned to reheat baked ziti leftovers two nights after making the first dinner, but my family ate a bit more of it than usual. I had some leftover green beans (less than half a can) that I put in the CrockPot, along with opening a full can, and tucked the ziti leftovers next to the beans. It all heated up just fine and I didn’t have to fire up the gas stove – and we filled in with green beans what we would have eaten in pasta servings.
  • Husband used meal card for breakfast and lunch all week of his class.