Sunday, August 30, 2015

A Purse Full of Fun Dollars

Now that I have outfits that I love, courtesy of my Goodwill shopping spree, I could now cruise the mall in confidence. In truth, I was avoiding checking out the Chandler Fashion Center just because I didn't really like what was in my closet.  If I am going shopping, I want to look as if I actually go shopping. (A fresh coat of mascara can only take the outfit so far...)

With rain in the forecast for Wednesday afternoon, we (my parents and I) made plans to explore the mall next to their hotel. Never before have I ever lived in the same town as a mall, so having a shopping mecca like the Chandler Fashion Center just a few exits from my house seems surreal. "You mean Pottery Barn and Nordstrom are just right here???" I still am having trouble wrapping my small-town girl mind around that one.

I wasn't on a mission to drop a bunch of cash at the mall, I just wanted to explore. I wanted to wander through some stores and just get a feel for the place. I did have a small, very short list of some supplemental items that Goodwill just couldn't supply; (cute) hair ties, something for my lips, and a key chain that has a clip (so that I can keep my car keys in the car running while I pop out to get the mail at our complex.) I had an idea for each of these items of where I wanted to shop. After spending several shopping sessions with my sister in Schaumberg at Woodfield Mall, I felt more acquainted with stores I was otherwise unfamiliar with.

I knew I could find cheap lip gloss at Forever 21. I don't go there for clothes (mostly because I don't really like their fashions,) but, as my sister so wisely states, "It's good for the basics." I can buy a handful of plain cami tank tops for a few dollars each. (I think they ring in at $1.90 or some ridiculous price like that.) Or a thin cardigan to keep me warm in all the icy air that is pumped through every edifice in town. I know that I can find inexpensive accessories there also. The hair ties were cute and sophisticated at the same time, so I snagged a card off the shelf with gold and silver pairings for $2.90. I also promised Lily that I would buy her her own lip gloss if she would stay in the stroller while I shopped. She did, and so a pink lip gloss became hers for $1.90. I also took one home for me in the same color.

After indulging Lily in a trip through "the pink store" (a.k.a. Victoria's Secret), we headed upstairs in the glass elevator to level 2. There I found an Icing store. I love this grown-up version of Claire's. I can find earrings, sunglasses, hats, scarves, and, yes, classy-looking key chains relatively inexpensively. I remembered seeing a collection of glittery key chains at the Icing in the Woodfield Mall the last time I shopped with my sister. Thankfully, nationally accessible stores carry the same wares in every store. They did indeed have the key chain I was looking for. After debating between a turquoise fish and an anchor, I chose the anchor. I am very happy with this decision. I no longer loose my dark key set in my purse. The glitter from the anchor alerts me, "here are your keys, dear!" And the key chain came with a clip, so I can easily unhook my P.O. box keys while leaving the air conditioning on in the car.

As I sat in the parent pit, I mean, play place, watching Carrick and Lily frolic with other kids, I snapped this picture. The purse; bought with Fun Dollars. The wallet; purchased with Fun Dollars. Hair ties, lip gloss and key chain, all the products of Fun Dollars at work. I love looking at my purse and seeing it filled with my decisions. Each of these items came from me choosing to part with my Fun Dollars. There are no regrets, no feelings of guilt about spending, just pride in knowing, "These are mine. I chose them, I bought them, I use them." Happy Spending indeed. 

Key chain at Icing- $10
2 Lip glosses and hair ties at Forever 21- $7.00
Wetzel's Pretzel for the kids to split- $3

Balance this pay cycle- $28.00

Happy Spending

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Less is More

Of course, after I preach the virtues of restraint, what do I do? I go on a shopping spree (ish). You'd think that with any and every store imaginable in a ten-minute radius that I would be able to find somewhere more interesting to shop than Goodwill. Wasn't there a Goodwill in Sedona? Isn't that where I spent quite a few Fun Dollars in my past life???

Yes, and yes. Which is why I felt comfortable taking my Fun Dollars there yesterday. With mom and dad in town visiting, I was handed a golden opportunity to go shopping. Mom makes a great shopping buddy and dad is a fabulous baby sitter! My mother shops almost exclusively at thrift stores. She marvels at her ability to find just about anything at rock-bottom prices at places like Goodwill. She and I were on the same mission: create a new wardrobe.

Mom packed lightly for this trip, mostly because she had already purged many of her clothes from her closet. She had amassed a collection of things that no longer felt right on her, clothes that felt worn out, out-dated and "not her" anymore. I too purged much of my closet before moving. After holding two garage sales, I was in the "get rid of it" state of mind. Anything and everything that did not make me feel my best when I put it on was taken straight to the donation center.

One of the first things mom asked me after claiming her bags at the airport was, "Do you have any Goodwills near where you live now?" I wanted to laugh...

We have about 7 Goodwills within a 7 mile radius! No joke! Goodwill down here is as ubiquitous as Starbucks! There's one on every corner is seems like! The store I chose for our girl's-day-out-shopping-spree was the newly opened Goodwill at Priest Rd and Elliot. It is the size of a Marshall's store, with the selection of a Marshall's store to boot.

With a bigger population, there is greater diversity of goods. There are not just retired folks donating here (like in Sedona). There are college students from ASU getting rid of things after the semester is over. There are young women who are shopaholics bringing in their designer duds. Suffice it to say, when I went tearing through the aisles, there was not shortage of things for me to try on.

Just one of the six shirts I scored at Goodwill.
I decided to stick with just buying shirts for this outing. I have four pairs of solid-colored linen shorts from Banana Republic and I rotate through them (and two pairs of leggings) for what I wear on the bottom. I had been cycling through the same few shirts just because they were the only things left that I could wear with solid colored shorts.  I thought starting from the base of shorts, it would be easy to find shirts that coordinated with them. After an hour of trying on several dozen tops, I found 6 that really worked for me and my existing wardrobe. I also scored two purses and a sun hat.

When I came home yesterday after my shopping spree, I matched up shorts and tops. My closet looks so happy now with six new outfits! It's a small start, but it will get me through the week looking and feeling my best. Paying $3.99 for an almost new Express shirt feels good. Getting a whole bag full of name-brand tops for $3.99 each feels even better. Paying less and getting more, now that's what I'm talkin' about!

6 shirts, 2 purses and a sun hat at Goodwill- $35.00

bottled water from Circle K- $4.00

Lunch at Jimmy John's- $6.00

Balance this pay cycle- $48.00

Happy Spending!

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

We are moved. We are (mostly) unpacked. We have a new couch. Our new bed frame is set for delivery today. Life is good.

I have spent my entire life living in small towns. The largest of them being Cottonwood, AZ. Corey and I spent our first six months in Arizona living in Cottonwood. The approximate population of that particular area, I believe is in the 60,000 range (give or take a few hundred snowbirds.) Sedona, AZ and Macomb, IL were the next biggest cities I have called home, with around 20,000 people each. Now, compare the size of those three towns to where we live now, boasting 6 million people; that's a lot of people.

Lots of people means lots of commerce. The options for places to spend Fun Dollars is limitless. If I saved up all of my Fun Dollars for a month, I could buy a plane ticket to visit my sister. Why not, when the airport is 15 minutes away? Or I could go to IKEA and redo a room of our new home. After all, it's just across town, just down the street. Or we could go out to eat, but the question is where? Do we want Cuban, Caribbean, or Korean for dinner? OR I could just take the kids to a water park, or an amusement park on the weekend, and spend half my Fun Dollars on carnival rides. Really, the only limit to me spending my Fun Dollars is my own budget. Whatever I can dream up to do, we can go do. It's all here.

With the endless list of possible places to park my cash comes a huge responsibility. I cannot just pass off cooking supper each night and instead go out to eat. I cannot just drive to the Chandler Fashion Center and buy a whole new wardrobe for myself. I cannot just take the kids to Castles and Coasters every weekend. There must be some restraint.

Thank Goodness I have been tracking my Fun Dollars for a year and a half and have now developed the skill and art of spending discernment. I truly believe that this move was properly timed. Had we moved a year ago, yeah I could have handled it, but I still had much to learn about my spending habits. Even if we had moved six months ago, I think I still would have felt the need to make bigger, more exciting purchases, even if it was just for the sake of writing about it here on the Fun Dollars blog. I would have blown through my money way too quickly if we had moved much earlier than what we did.

The past three weeks since we moved, I have been exploring neighborhoods, discovering parks, and investigating places to shop. Instead of just making a purchase automatically, I have instead held back and shopped around for the best deals (for household purchases, not Fun Dollar purchases. We only just "turned on" the Fun Dollars budget again this week.) Shopping around was a luxury not really afforded before. In Cottonwood, there was Wal-Mart, JC Penny, Home Depot, and several local eateries worth frequenting. In Sedona, there was Beall's Outlet, Goodwill, and a Gap Outlet, with several other local places worth checking out for shopping/eating. If we wanted any more options outside of what I just listed, we had to drive 45 minutes to Flagstaff. That's where Marshall's, Target, Old Navy, the Mall, Kohl's, etc. were all located. Since it took a day's worth of commitment to go shopping at these places, I had to have an actual need to drive that far to justify the cost of travel. I would have to feed myself while I was out all day. I would have to have a list long enough to make the trip worth my while, thereby making spending almost a necessity just to get variety.

Here in Phoenix, the variety is all just minutes away. I can drive down the street to Bed, Bath and Beyond to check the price of sheets for our new bed, then walk next door to compare the prices at Marshall's. If I don't like what I see, it's not a big deal, because I haven't wasted an entire day just driving to these places to check on prices. I can turn right around and drive to Target or Ross today, tomorrow, or the next day because they are only seven minutes away. (Which is exactly what I did yesterday.) I am no longer limited by time and distance. They have become my allies.

Before, when we needed to do more extended shopping outside of the Sedona area, we would have to pack snacks, or plan a cheap meal out (usually at Taco Bell.) Now, we have a home right in the middle of everything. We can go shopping in one area, head home for a snack, then go right back out to another part of town. It's no longer a gamble for the kids getting hungry, or me needing a little pick-me-up. I can accomplish much of what I need to do during the hours that Carrick is at school. I can run some laundry, go out shopping, come back home to do dishes, and still have time to relax while Lily naps before picking up Carrick. I don't have to spend a majority of my day in the car driving to accomplish what I need to get done, thereby maximizing the time I spend with one kiddo at home.

I am really looking forward to the next few months of spending my Fun Dollars. It is going to be a whole new adventure! (By the way, did any of you see the new tagline for Fun Dollars? It's now "Adventures in Spending".) I am super-excited to track and observe my spending habits in this new environment. New challenges, new "wants", new stores and eateries all beckon for me to come and be a part of this spending adventure!

Plate of Orange and Teriyaki Chicken at Panda Express- $7.00

Balance this pay cycle- $93.00

Happy Spending!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Settling In...

We moved...*snap* just like that.

Remember earlier this summer when I posted about our "impromptu" trip to Mexico? Well, it was sort of like that. Corey called me on his way back from Phoenix last Friday and said we should rent a U-Haul and move this weekend. He had just signed the lease on our new place and had keys and a garage door opener.

Really? Now? Are you crazy? We just paid rent for August (in Sedona), and you want to move now?

Well, I guess it's a good thing I had been preparing for this moment all summer long. Packing, decluttering, donating, hosting two garage sales, and more packing...It was the moment of truth. Had my diligence with my summer task of "packing as if we were moving" paid off? Yes, a resounding YES!!!!

We did rent a U-Haul the very next day, around 5pm, actually. Niccole took Carrick to her house for one last sleepover, and another friend of ours came over to help us start loading up the truck. I staged what was ready to load, she and Corey did the loading. We worked until about 9 that night.

The next day, our friend came back over around 9 in the morning with her two children. The kids ran around with Lily for a while, then another friend of ours showed up to help (also with her two children.) Shortly after her arrival, Niccole brought Carrick home, and we added two more 6-year-olds to the mix (and two more adult helping hands, Niccole, and her husband.) Together, with four ladies and two dudes, we all loaded up the truck, packed and cleaned our house.

We didn't totally finish all of it, but the help was more appreciated than our friends will ever know. Without them, it would have taken Corey and me so much longer (especially with the kids.) Having all the other kids around was like a party for them. They all played well and kept each other occupied so the adults could forge ahead with the moving-out process.

The group dispersed around 3. We were all exhausted and the kids needed a nap. After an hour of siesta time, Corey and I finished loading up the van. We left Sedona around 6. By 11:30 that night, we were in our new home and the van was empty (thanks to the help of one of Corey's Phoenix friends.)

As I laid there in my bed, tired, run-down, and aching, I couldn't help but smile. This felt like home. The room, the house, the neighborhood, all of it. There was something comforting and familiar about the place we had chose to live in.

So, why so sudden? Why not make trips back and forth and slowly move in all month? Why didn't I tell Corey to stuff it when he said, "Hey! Let's just pack up and move this weekend"?

One word: Family.

I have been living the life of a single mom all summer long. My husband has been in Phoenix living in hotels all summer long. We have not seen each other enough. The kids miss him. He is lonely. We just all needed to be together as a family as quickly as possible. Yeah, I could have drove some loads of stuff down to Phoenix and then packed up a U-Haul with just furniture at the end. But, I gotta say, after one trip back to do some cleaning the day after we moved, it was torture!!! I could have done it just find by myself, but I had both kids with me. The two-hour trip there and back, the mess in the house, no TV or toys to play with while mom takes care of business all make for two very cranky kiddos. (And cranky kiddos tend to make cranky mommies. It's a lose/lose situation.)

Also, because we put in our 30-day notice with our rental company, they want to start showing our property to potential renters. The thought of having to pack, watch two kids and keep the house tidy enough to show gives me hives. The faster we vacate, the better. It's one less stressor in my life during this time of major transition.

So, we are getting our boxes unpacked. The house is slowly becoming a home. The kids have been able to play on the playground just across the driveway as well as dip in the community pool. Corey has been able to enjoy a quick commute to work, then come home to his wife and kids. We are all under one roof now, and that's what really matters.