Tuesday, November 29, 2011

The Positives of Housing Exchange Students

Many of my readers know that since 10/08, we have had three different foreign students living in our home, pretty much continuously, except for the summers. Obviously, there are positives and negatives to this arrangement, and every family is different, but we have had wonderful experiences with all of our adopted kids: Teresa from Guatemala, and Young Meen and Seung Gi from South Korea.
Tere, our Latin girl, was only here for 8 weeks. She was very outgoing and wanted to be involved in all that we were doing. She was here for a language/cultural immersion program, so studying wasn't a priority. We travelled quite a bit and I even got up early to go Black Friday shopping with her--something I will probably never do again!

Young Meen was with us for 2.5 years, and she and my daughter were like sisters by the time they graduated in May:

Seung Gi has been with us since the beginning of this school year. Like Young Meen, (and in our experience, most Asian students) he is quiet and prefers to spend much of his time alone in his room. I know this is bothersome to some families we have been in contact with, but we really don't see this as a negative, it is mostly a cultural difference.

How do we handle having a "stranger" in the house? Again, I know every family is different, but we essentially treat our students as we would a guest/boarder in that we don't feel we have to have the same rules for them that we have for our own kids. We only have three basic rules. They have to: eat (a minimum of) the evening meal with us, clean their room on Saturday, and go to church with us for one service a week. Unlike I would be with my own kids, I don't worry myself with how much time they are on the computer,  what they are eating, or how they doing with homework. IF any of these issues became a problem, I might worry, but these kids are here to get an American education-most have been away from home since middle school-and trust me, Asians are pretty self-motivated.

Are we compensated? With Tere, no; with the Asian students, yes. How much? Because our school has different agents that we work with, I am not able to divulge this information, but most pay a monthly stipend of at least $400. Anything $400 and under is non-taxable, more than that and you have to claim the difference.

So to sum it all up, having a foreign student in your home can be a very rewarding experience in many ways, a situation I would highly recommend!

Wednesday, November 30th, is that last day you can vote for me in the cheap sally contest. Thanks for all your help!

Monday, November 21, 2011

Free almonds

Not a lot to say today but I did want to share this link for a free almond sample before they are all gone..enjoy!

Here's a great link for a 1 ounce sample of fresh almonds (thanks, Lori!) http://www.caalmonds.com/ Look for the link that says "free sample" on the left side.

Free sample of Atelier Cologne: https://www.facebook.com/AtelierCologne?sk=wall

Thanks for your votes! www.cheapsally.com/contest/tricia-cliff/

Friday, November 18, 2011

Friday Freebies

I'm just gonna come right out and say it...this cheap sally contest has been wearing me out. There have been 78 days of voting so far (just 12 left!)...my brother calls it the longest job interview EVER. I have to agree. All I can say is that you are the most amazing friends. Except for a few moments here and there, I have stayed #1 in the state of NC the entire time, but the lady in second place has worked me for every vote. Honestly, with the exception of maybe MN, we have to be the most competitive state out there. If I were still in Maine, I would be not even breaking a sweat at this point. Here's the irony: if in the last few hours #2 surpasses me...even if I am #2 in the nation...I would not advance to round 3 because you have to be #1 in your state. Sigh. I've made peace with it though. If I end up losing, I will honestly be able to say I gave it my very best shot! So, thanks to all. Hang in there with me:

It's a much colder day here--27 degeess this morning. I managed to get 4 loads of laundry on the line, make a big to-go cup of generic coffee with 55 cent-after-coupons Coffee-Mate, deliver the turkeys to our church, clean two rooms, and stop at Carolina Thrift, just for fun. They had Christmas music playing and one of the workers was singing away. Totally made my day. Came home to some gift cards in my mailbox, $200 worth to be exact. I "bought" them with points from my credit card and am hoping that they will knock out the majority of the kid's gifts. That's right...getting my inner-Christmas-frugal on. Life is grand.

Except I'm hungry. Why am I hungry? I decided it was time to do my 3-day drink fast. I'll feel really great after tomorrow when I can have real food again. Don't worry...I'm not starving myself. I actually get about 1000 calories a day, and part of that comes from 2 homemade protien shakes that give me 40 gms of protien. I am a grazer by nature, and this fast shows up my weaknesses big time. Do you have any idea how much junk food shows up at a nurse's station around the holidays? Krispy Kremes, anyone?? Oh my word. But I've been good. And I feel very focused...and hungry...

Here are some great freebies for you:

A sample of Biolage shampoo: https://www.facebook.com/MATRIX?sk=app_289095531122361

A sample of Seattle's Best Coffee if you are working on Black Friday:

Free sample of Nature's Bounty Fish Oil and $2 coupon: https://www.facebook.com/NaturesBountyVitamins?sk=app_161033847281768

Free Roadside Blooms 2012 Calender: https://apps.dep.wv.gov/reap/calendarsignup.cfm

Free sample of Calvin Klien Beauty perfume: http://www.minimartclients.com/CalvinKlein-BeautyPromotion/

Coupon for a free liter of Living Life water from Thorntons: https://www.facebook.com/thorntonsinc?sk=app_163849080647

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Give back ideas and nearly free Bounce bars!

Wow, it's really raining here in High Point today, but it's unseasonably warm, so I'll take it. It's been the perfect day to work on some holiday projects: Each year our church hosts a Thanksgiving dinner for area foster families, and I generally bake two turkeys--that I get on sale, of course. So today smells like Thanksgiving at my house. The kids also participate in the Samaritan's Purse shoebox drive every year:
http://www.samaritanspurse.org/index.php/OCC/afr/. It's such a concrete way to give. Does your church or community center host any meals? A shoebox drive? Angel Tree? There are so many ways to give that don't cost much. What are your favorites??

What freebies have arrived in your box lately? In the past few days I've received Hugo cologne samples, 4 Barista K-Cups, 3 Twining Tea Bags, a Kinerase skincare sample, a Kleenex sample and 3 Platex Tampons, along with many coupons. Make sure you are getting free products...sign up when I post the links! It's even more fun now because I have many of them shipped to my daughter in college to fill her box also. You know how college kids like mail! Right now there are more sales than freebies, but always be on the lookout.

A couple of tips I recently read (and tried successfully):

What's your recipe for making traditional rice? Two parts water to one part rice, I'm guessing, and if you let it cook too long, it gets really sticky. I read somewhere that if you think of rice like pasta, and boil it in at least 4 parts water to 1 part rice and then drain it, it will not be sticky but will have more of a "minute rice" consistency. Guess what? It worked!

And don't you hate to have "pilly" sweaters? Use a pumice stone to take off all the pills; works like a charm.

Have you tried the new Bounce Dryer Bar? I did when they offered a rebate earlier in the year, and I do have to admit that I like not having to remember to add a dryer sheet. Right now there is a rebate offer for $5 back and there was a coupon for $1 off in the last P&G coupon insert. It's for a 6 month bar...that makes for a very good if not free deal!

Thanks for your votes! 14 days left: www.cheapsally.com/contest/tricia-cliff/

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

On doing what you love (big changes in the family)

Our Holiday Drinks
I've literally been jumping up and down around the house quite a bit lately (try not to paint that picture too literally), but oh-my-goodness...big things happening here. By now, some of you have heard that my husband, Mike has decided to return to teaching next year. OK, you may be thinking, so what? Well, it's quite a big "what" at our house, as in, "What are we going to be doing next year?" Not too long after Mike told his boss of his desire to be in the classroom again, his predecessor called this same boss and said he was feeling the call to come back from Taiwan. So BAM, just like that, God closed the door to Mike's principal job. Isn't God amazing? No going back now, we have crossed the proverbial Rubicon. And I really couldn't happier, if not just a tad stressed. (OK, maybe sometimes more than a tad...)I'm just really proud of my husband for following his heart in this because I think he's a great teacher and he needs to be doing what he loves, even if it means a pretty significant pay cut.

Speaking of doing what you love: recently Mike heard a speaker who was talking about finding your passion: Look for areas where you produce the most fruit, get the most positive feedback, and feel the most fulfilled. Teaching. That's it for my husband. A confirmation of sorts. The fact that he has no job after June is just a minor glitch, seriously. I know that God will take care of everything. He's never let us down before. Where will we go? No idea. Life is such an adventure.

All this makes me wonder....about me. Fruit? Fulfillment? Feedback? My passion is getting a deal...and writing. I'm not super great at either, but that's not the point. That's where this blog becomes my outlet. So thanks for reading!

Why am I jumping around now that husband is jobless in July? It isn't about that. One reason was that I sliced my thumb open on the side of the kitchen sink and it motivated me to want to start on a kitchen remodel. Another reason was finding out that our story about our car wreck and subsequent annual visits back to the hospital is a *potential* winner in the Dave Ramsey Giving Challenge! Three winners get $5000.00 to give to their charity of choice. I love Dave...even before this...enter your story here and inspire others: http://www.daveramsey.com/specials/christmas/ictid/text2.hub.3way.c11/

Um let's see, what else? Starbucks is having their annual BOGO free drinks Nov 17-20, 2-5 pm: http://merry.starbucks.com/en-us/#/bogo/

Laurel Oaks Christian Church on Old Plank Road in High Point is giving away the remainder of their pumpkins. Just run by and get them!

I discovered a great new site: http://www.airbnb.com/ where you can list rooms/apartments/houses/futons for rent and/or find a room somewhere. And it's free to list, unlike most sites. Check it out!

I got a BIG FAT check from ebates (that's what they call them) for $40.00. If you don't have an ebates account yet, you really need to sign up. You get cash back just for shopping online and going through their site. Do it now before you start all your holiday shopping. From now until the end of the year, you can get an extra $150.00 just for getting 10 friends to sign up...so help me out, then get 10 of your friends to do the same! Merry Christmas! Use this link:

I haven't fixed my dryer yet (it's been over a month now) and when I saw how much less my electric bill was this month, I'm rethinking paying someone a minimum of $75 to show up and tell me how much more they are going to charge. Alright...I WILL fix it, but it's been a worthy experiment.

And we should get our van back this week! We've been a month without that also. Great month.

Thanks for voting for me in the cheap sally contest. Only 15 more days of voting. It's been a long 10 weeks and I appreciate your tenacity. Most of the other bloggers have thousands of followers...I don't. But you all are the best and I'm currently 8th in the nation, 1rst in NC! www.cheapsally.com/contest/tricia-cliff/  Thank you!

Friday, November 11, 2011

Happy Veteran's Day!

Hello Blogger Friends! Hope you are geared up for a beautiful, if cooler, weekend.

If you have served our country or are currently serving, I want to personally thank you for your dedication and sacrifice. It is appreciated.

Rather than compile yet another list of wonderful discounts and freebies available to you Veterans, here is a link with a boatload of them: http://freebies4mom.com/2011/11/11/weekend-freebievents-1111-1113/

Thanks for keeping me in first place in NC in the cheap sally contest. So appreciated:

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A dozen items you should never pay for...

(our sweet potato harvest)

Ahhh, what a glory day. Beautiful blue sky, brilliant leaves, a delish lunch of sauteed cabbage and noodles, an hour browsing my favorite magazines at the library, putting away my sweet potato stash, and a Rite-Aid shop all planned where I will be picking up 4 free items: feminine pads, lotion, toothpaste and toothbrush. I have been couponing and rebating for so long now that it always surprises me when I am asked, "What do you mean when you say you don't pay for _______?" So for those of you still new to this, here's a list and few pointers:

Simply put, I rarely pay money for: shampoo, conditioner, hair color, antiperspirant, lotion, make-up, toothpaste, toothbrushes, mouthwash, tampons, feminine pads or contact solution. There are a few other items, but this delightful dozen make up the majority of my small stock pile, and I do mean small. With seven of us using these products, they don't last long.

How is it done? I buy these items at Walgreens, RiteAid and CVS. I don't shop at every store every week, in fact, most weeks I only hit one. All three stores have rebate/printable coupon programs: Walgreens has Register Rewards (RRs), CVS had Extra Care Bucks (ECBs) and RiteAid has the +UP program. All three now print the rewards right when you buy, which is very convenient. Just don't lose them! Even when I was living in Maine and only had RiteAid available to me, I kept a decent stockpile. Here are the some things to remember:

1. Don't be brand loyal. I have 10 different kinds of toothpaste right now--they all do the job.
2. Don't wait until you run out of an item before you buy. Always keep ahead or you will pay full price.
3. Get the Sunday paper and look through the sale ads. Specifically look for items that are free or nearly free.
4. After you have the list of free items that you want, look on http://www.southernsavers.com/ and click on the link to that store. Here Jenny will tell you where to find coupons for these same items, including links to printable coupons and the dates that they were in the Sunday paper.This is where the fun begins. Now you can get the products for free AND make a profit.
5. If the item is completely free and you can't use it, buy it anyway. Make gift bags for local charities of use for gift bags of your own. I routinely put lotion in baby shower gifts for mom to use.
6. Use your ECBs, RRs, and +UPs to purchase your "freebies" the next week, paying very little out of pocket. Most are only good for 3 weeks, so keep up with them. Don't let the expire. If there's nothing you want to buy, pick up a gift or something useful like paper towels or toilet paper.
7. Consider getting yourself a laser printer. I bought one last year on black Friday and it has more than paid for itself. Before I had it, I was slow in printing colorful coupons that uses too much ink. Now I look for free paper at Staples and Office Depot and use the rewards to get free toner.
8. Have fun knowing you are saving yourself tons of money!!

Here's a facebook freebie for a free Scotch Brite Sponge:

And thanks for your continued votes in the www.cheapsally.com/contest/tricia-cliff/

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Got shoes? Information on CDs (no, not the kind you listen to:)

You may have seen this photo making its way around facebook, and as with most other folks, it gave me pause to think about just how blessed I am. But it also made me realize how much of a blessing all the shoes that I have been collecting will be to someone...somewhere! To all of you who have donated to the http://www.soles4souls.com/  shoe drive, thanks! I am collecting until the 11th of November, so bring out those used shoes.

Today I am sharing a post from fellow blogger Trent Hamm, who blogs daily at http://www.thesimpledollar.com/. I really like Trent's posts. He is very down-to-earth and I have learned much from him. Today he was answering reader questions about investing, and while most of you (like me) don't have big chunks of change sitting around, I learned some things about CDs that I didn't know. If you have anything invested in retirement accounts, as we do, you know how depressed the market is right now....so here are some things to think about, at least for the short term:

CD “Ladder” by Trent Hamm

"A certificate of deposit (often called a CD) is something you can buy from a bank. CDs are usually sold at a particular length of time and at a particular interest rate.

Typically, people will go to the bank, buy a CD with a particular interest rate and length, and wait for that length of time. At the end of that length of time, the buyer gets their money back plus the interest earned on the money during that period. If you try to get your money early, though, you usually have to pay a stiff penalty.

So, let’s say you find a 1 year CD at your local bank with an APY of 2%. You put $10,000 into it. At the end of the year, you get your $10,000 back and get another $200 back in interest. You can set this up to happen automatically so that the $200 gets rolled into your checking account and the $10,000 goes to buy another CD. All you see is the $200 in your checking account each year.

So, what’s a “ladder”? Let’s say you buy one of these CDs at the start of each month for a year. This means you’ve spent $120,000 on CDs over a year.

At the start of each month, one $10,000 CD matures, paying you $200 (assuming they’re always at 2% interest). That $10,000 then automatically buys another one year CD. That way, when that month rolls around next year, the same exact thing happens again.

The problem with this approach right now is that the interest rates on CDs are so incredibly low that you’re not really getting much of a boost at all beyond what interest rate you can get for an ordinary savings account. As the economy rebounds, these rates will go up and, eventually, CD rates will exceed savings account rates by enough to make it worthwhile.

If you’re thinking of this option, I offer a couple points of advice.

One, don’t put all of your money into this CD “ladder.” Keep at least a month’s worth of living expenses outside of this in savings as an emergency fund so that you don’t have to sell a CD early.

Two, wait to start this until there’s at least half a percent between a one year CD rate and what you can get in your savings account. Since you have to lock away your money for a year, you shouldn’t do it unless you’re getting some reasonable compensation for it."

And thanks for keeping me #1 in the state in the cheap sally contest; much appreciated:

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

November Winner!

Just a quick post to announce the winner of this nice little teapot: ssevie98@. Be sure to answer when I email you & congratulations!
Has anyone else noticed that there seem to be many, many prize drawings, sweeps and coupons since this new month hit? My goodness, I can hardly keep up....but tomorrow I will try to have some new listings for you. In the mean time, thanks for voting for me: http://www.cheapsally.com/contest/tricia-cliff/