Category Archives: Saving money

What is Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets?

As we approach the sixth year anniversary of the start of Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, I want to revisit its beginning. It’s interesting how things seem to work in a cycle. Once again, we’re watching the stock market, as it plunges one day and then regains points one or two days later. While the unemployment numbers look good, people are still underemployed, working jobs for less money today than they were 10 years ago. The rising cost of housing and the new mortgage laws have kept some people from attaining that American Dream, while struggling to find reasonable cost of rent in many markets.  And while the interest rates are rising, and the cost of living is higher, most people haven’t seen a significant increase in their paycheck since before the economic crash a decade ago.

I started Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets first as a writing assignment for myself. I used journaling as a way to process the massive changes that were happening in my life, particularly the time period following my change in jobs. Change, itself, was new to me. I had many other jobs before, having started working part-time as a young teenager, and full-time right out of college. But all of my positions were “upwardly mobile.” They weren’t all financially mobile, but each one prepared and positioned me for something that built upon the next level – until reaching that level where the financial rewards started paying off.

I was brought up to always live within whatever means I was in at any particular time in my life. Whether I was saving money for high school band trips; or to pay my own college tuition; or buying my first car after only a year at my first job, I learned how to practice discipline, patience, and planning in order to take care of the things I needed to take care of. And while I wasn’t perfect at it, I worked hard to be smart with my finances. I opted to live at home during college. I had three roommates when I finally got into my first rental house after Graduate school. And my first car was safe, boring, and inexpensive!

But in December, 2008, things changed. And those changes didn’t line up with my plans. They were a shift away from my otherwise, upwardly mobile status in life. And it was playing out in a non-temporary way.

There I was, along with hundreds of thousands of other people around the country, trying to deal with the impact of a Recession that few people saw coming, and most people had no idea how much it would personally impact them. I woke up one morning, and realized that the “normal” life I’d built for myself had been uprooted. So the only sanity I could hold on to was through writing. It was my means of processing the entire episode. Through that, I realized I was going to have to change some things; not just for this moment, but forever.

book with coffee cupAs I was going through my own world of “adjustments,” I watched others trying to make it through theirs. Not every life adjustment had to do with a job loss – but all of them impacted financial stability in some way. Friends going through divorces; neighbors impacted by a spouse’s inability to work; loss of income after the loss of a spouse; people dealing with unexpected medical diagnosis amidst inadequate medical insurance; unexpected legal issues that were emptying bank accounts; and a host of other issues, including people working fewer hours, or dealing with a cut in pay to prevent layoffs.

There were people around me who were trying to just “deal” with the things happening to them. Not all of them seem to understand that part of dealing would need to include an adjusted mindset. It was what I learned through journaling. I realized I couldn’t continue to focus on what was “normal” in my life prior to the major changes that had just happened. That normal didn’t exist anymore. I couldn’t keep doing the same things; at least not in the same way. I had to adjust to the new situation I found myself in. And I wanted to help other people; namely women, to do the same.

That’s why I took Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets off the pages of my personal journal and onto the Internet with this blog site and Facebook group page to share information and to encourage peer-to-peer participation. Women helping women work through issues and situations that they may not be ready for, or could use an extra perspective in dealing with.

Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets focuses on teaching, sharing, and learning how to use what you have today to help plan for what may not be there tomorrow. I hope there are some of you willing to share your story too!

Adjusting Your Life to Your New Normal.

The Benefits of Aging

I can’t remember which birthday it was. But I do remember that I was still pretty “young.” Not elementary or high school young; but you know, young; probably in my 20s. I must have been dreading another birthday, and vocalizing it within ear shot of my mother. She reminded me of how young I really was, and that the time would come when I truly would be considered “old.” But for that day, that time period in my life, I was no where near that place.

Then she said something profound; something I’ve heard myself repeat to more than just a few friends over the years. To paraphrase, “If you’re not getting older, you’re dead.

Leave it to my mom to be so blunt. But she was right. Aging was one of those things we could use to measure living by. We’re still here, turning another year older. Yah!

I remember when a friend of mine turned 50. In the age of social media, everyone shares everything. So she posted a photo of her AARP packet, and a disapproving look on her face, captioned: REALLY?

I understand exactly where she’s coming from. I mean, the very nature of the AARP organization was designed for retired people (American Association of Retired Persons). Who retires at 50; except maybe a career military person who joined right out of high school or college. Or perhaps someone lucky enough to have built a company that a larger corporation came bought up!

And let’s face it. When we were in our 20s and 30s, people who were in their 50s were the “older people” — teachers, relatives, and friends of our parents.  Now, we’re “those people.”

Sometimes, I do sit back and wonder where all the time has gone. I mean, how did I become a card caring AARP member? One moment, you can’t wait to get out of high school. The next moment you’re counting the years out of college in terms of decades! But there are certainly some benefits to getting older, besides just being wiser.

And AARP has plenty of those! If you’re a member, you probably already know. But if you’re not, check out all of the advantages there are to turning 50!

https://www.aarp.org/benefits-discounts/?intcmp=DSO-HDR-BENEFITS-EWHERE

I knew about some of the discounts they offered, from discounted movie tickets, to savings on hotel reservations and rental cars. But I was surprised to learn just how many restaurants and retail outlets also participated in the program. I eat at Outback a few times a year, and had been eating at Bonefish Grill on a bi-monthly basis over last year, and had no idea I could have been saving ten percent on my bill each time! And while I knew I could be getting discount tickets for Regal Crown theaters, I just found out that you can also get three dollars off a popcorn/soda combo!

And for someone like me, who works in the live entertainment industry, you think I would have known that the AARP membership benefits also include discounts on some live events, including 15-20 percent off tickets for Cirque du Soleil shows!

Well, I guess it’s my fault for not checking it out before now. But now that you know, you won’t have an excuse. Getting rewarded for getting older? Not so bad after all!

 

How Wearing Sweaters in the Winter Can Help Cut Your Electric Bill

I laughed (again) as I read through the growing outrage on Facebook over some recent electric bills. Every year, around the same January through February time period, the same neighborhood FB page gets loaded with comments from people complaining that their bill had doubled, and even tripled over one month. It was a neighborhood with mostly older homes; with many if the homeowners probably not taking the steps to modernize their doors, windows, and insulation. Whether or not the people posting the comments were exaggerating or not, there was no doubt in my mind that their heating bill had likely jumped up, with us coming off of a couple weeks of low temperatures in our area. But how high a bill goes depends, in part, on what people are willing to do to help keep it down.

A month earlier, a friend poised the question on her FB page, asking what people set their thermostats on during the winter. I was very surprised to see a number of responders saying everything from mid-70 to even as high as 78 degrees! I could just feel the sweat pouring down my back thinking about how hot my house would feel at that setting!

Growing up, I remember my mom telling us to “go put a sweater on,” if we complained about the house being too cold in the winter. My mom typically kept it at a firm 68 degrees. When I got my own home, responsible for paying my own bill, I would do the same. When friends would come over, I would turn into my mother if any of them dared to say something about how my house felt. It’s what I also had to say to at least one roommate. “Don’t dress like it’s summer just because you’re in the house.” This was the same roommate who would always want to turn the heat up, but then would sleep with the ceiling fan on because she “liked the sound!”

But back to that informal FB poll my friend took. Many of her friends tried justifying their thermostat settings based upon comfort. They wanted to feel warm enough in their house that they could wear anything. But to me, if I have to sleep in thin PJs, and under only a sheet in the middle of winter, because the house is too warm to use a blanket, then something is wrong. And  I’m pretty sure that many of the same people setting upper 70s on the thermostat are the same ones complaining because their electric bill runs a couple of hundred dollars and more!

According to the Department of Energy, and most electric companies, the best settings to conserve energy and keep your utility bill down is 68 degrees during the day and down to 66 degrees at night. To keep from moving mine back and forth, I just keep it at 66 all day. I figure I’m not home during the day, and will be under covers (or a throw in the chair while watching television), with a nice blanket or two in bed.

“You can save as much as 10% a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back 7°-10°F for 8 hours a day from its normal setting. The percentage of savings from setback is greater for buildings in milder climates than for those in more severe climates.

You can easily save energy in the winter by setting the thermostat to 68°F while you’re awake and setting it lower while you’re asleep or away from home.”

— Department of Energy

I believe that oftentimes when people say they’re looking for ways to save money, what they don’t say is that they want to do it without sacrifices or inconveniences. But like almost anything that’s worth doing, there will almost always be some type of sacrifice and perhaps an inconvenience to it.

The truth of the matter is that you can’t have it both ways. You can’t save money on your electric bill while allowing your heat to run all day. You don’t save energy when the system’s running at 78 degrees in the winter. And when you calculate other places where you might be losing some of the energy that you’re trying to save — like old single-pane windows, cracks and spaces around and under the door, or poor insulation in attic or walls, it can really add up.

So if you are serious about saving on your heating bill this winter, it’s not too late. And every little bit helps. Most electric companies provide their customers with brochures and online links describing how people can save money. My city’s electric company has a list on theirs with some helpful tips:

Save Energy This Winter

  1. Turn the thermostat down to 68 degrees or lower and bundle up with a cozy sweater and warm socks.
  2. Look into easy solutions like weather-stripping and caulking to prevent cold air from entering your home.
  3. Close curtains & blinds at night to protect against cold drafts. Open them during the day to let in the sun’s warmth.
  4. Clean or replace your furnace filter regularly. A dirty filter will slow air flow and make your system work harder.
  5. Keep the garage door closed as much as possible to help buffer cold outdoor air from trickling into your home.

So the next time you’re tempted to turn the heat up, go put on a sweater, grab a nice throw; fix a hot cup of tea, and remind yourself how much money you’ll save over the course of the season if you leave it where it is.

The Cost of a Coffeehouse Office

You would think that someone who lived alone wouldn’t need to get away to get things done. But when it comes to creative writing, grading class assignments, or even prepping my courses, there’s nothing worst for me than being home alone.

Several years ago when I worked from home, it was a little easier. My house was one level, but I had a bonus room. I knew the day I decided to start my own company that I would have to put mechanisms in place to help me be disciplined enough to work from home (can I get an Amen for other entrepreneurs out there?). So for me, going upstairs into the bonus room was treated like going uptown to an office building. Each day, while taking the four steps up, I pretended to be getting into my car; the top opening of the room I imagined as the door into my company; and the entire upstairs was the various areas of my office.

Now, my Saturday morning or early afternoon office for what’s now become my “side” job (having taken my career in another different direction) is at the same table in the corner at the Panera just two miles from my house. If it’s in the evenings, I usually opt for the Starbucks two blocks further. Panera is brighter during the day, with lots of windows where the sunshine streams in. Starbucks is a little darker, which is perfect for late evenings. Don’t get me wrong, those places certainly come with their own distractions. Panera is usually teeming with families with young children in the morning and youth sports teams in the afternoon. And Starbucks tends to play host to groups of college students, wanna-be authors, and awkwardly paired couples, perhaps meeting up for the first time. But those distractions seem different in one of these places than what surrounds me at home these days.

After choosing to move closer to my full-time job in a suburban town just outside the city I used to live in, I thought distractions would be the least of my worries. But with a rental house that’s just the second one off the busy main street through the neighborhood; coupled with homes that are way too close together for my comfort (something I won’t be looking for when the time comes to buy again), and dealing with what often sounds like the loud echoing sounds of everything from garage door openings to lawn mowers going, and dogs barking at anything that moves; even the sound of birds chirping outside my window can become an irritant at certain times; especially when I’m trying to concentrate.

And then there’s the television. When it’s off, it taunts me to turn it on “just for a little while.” It lies to me, and tells me I have the power to turn it back off just as easily as I turned it on. But when it’s on, it drains my energy and sucks any semblance of time from the air, with each passing 30-minute show, especially the weekend marathon of home & garden shows, and 24-hour news channels.

So that brings me back to getting out of the house and hanging out at Panera.

With all of those embedded cameras in the ceiling, that most visitors to a place like this would probably never take note of, it becomes impossible; and quite honestly, probably rude, to take up real estate for hours at a time, without contributing financially to the business…if for no other reason than the fact that I frequently take advantage of the convenience of using their wifi to update all my phone apps!

So how do I maintain a reasonable budget during my frequent visits? Well, first of all, I became a member of their Rewards program many years ago — the same day I realized I had taken several meetings at the same Panera one month when I first launched my company. I knew that was just the beginning. There’s always a reward at the end of a certain number of visits. Saving even just two dollars for a free cup of coffee or bagel is worth it! Second, fortunately my sisters are wise to me, and often give me Panera (or Starbucks) gift cards for my birthday and Christmas. One of the biggest challenges of hanging out at Panera is the fact that they are NOT the cheapest food option in town. I have to be mindful of what I order and have learned how to make the most of it.

Here are a few of the things I do.

If you’re a coffee drinker, then Panera is a better option than Starbucks because you get free refills; and can even switch to decaf when you’ve energized enough for one day. Starbucks charges, even if it’s at a discounted price. The same goes with their tea and soft drinks. There’s nothing wrong with drinking water and forgo the additional cost of adding a drink to your order. If you love their bagels, don’t ask for the cream cheese. The butter is free, and the cost of that small cream cheese container is almost as much as buying an entire tub of it at your local grocery store. With the side items, I always ask for the bag of chips. They’re perfect to throw into your purse or leave in the car for times when you’re running around doing errands, and your stomach starts growling. Keeps you from taking that trip through a drive-thru and spending more money.

When I do order a meal, I ask for the free additions; things that help to fill you up. Most people aren’t aware that you can ask for extra lettuce on your sandwich at no additional cost. The same goes for your salad. I never order a whole salad. Instead, I choose the much cheaper half salad, and then I ask for extra lettuce. They don’t mind giving you (most) extra veggies, but the protein (meat, cheese, egg) will cost you a little more. When I started using the kiosk, I discovered there are several other items you can add — kale, apple chips, cabbage, corn — that don’t cost you any more. The end result is a fuller salad that is more in line with the high price you pay. And equally important, you won’t be hungry an hour later while you’re still working on your latest novel!

Spring Break at the Beach

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Isn’t it beautiful?! There’s nothing quite like spending some vacation time at the beach, sitting on the warm sands, watching the sunrise in the morning. And then returning that evening, after  full day of doing nothing, to watch it set. One of the things I’ve missed about leaving South Carolina for Tennessee is that the once two-and-a-half hour drive to the Atlantic ocean now takes over ten!

I invited myself to the beach with them once I learned their spring break was the same week as mine! It’s the first time it’s happened since I started teaching, and my schedule became dictated by semesters instead of calendar years. I knew they wouldn’t mind, and after the last six months, I needed a real break; not the kind you take over the holidays, where most of your time is spent decorating the house, visiting people, attending events, and hosting family and friends. I wanted, no needed a REAL break! I needed to see the ocean again, feel the warm sunshine on my face while digging in to the sand between my toes. I wanted to not set an alarm clock, wake up to the sounds of the waves, and listen to the high pitched screech of the water birds, drowned out only by the laughter of young children running from the water’s edge. I didn’t want to wait until summer. I needed it now!

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But somewhere along the way, what I wanted; what I needed; and what actually happened didn’t line up!

Okay, yes, I agree. It was the grown-up thing to do to call and UNinvite myself from a week in (almost) paradise. But that was the point. I didn’t want to act like a grown up. I wanted some ME time. Sure there were papers to be graded, which I knew would be a challenge to do sitting pool side, most likely distracted by the splash of the swimmers, and the lure of the lazy river that meandered beside the swimming pool. And while taking long walks down the beach would have been just the kind of medicine I needed to help destress and refocus my mind, and de-tense my body, I probably would have been thinking about all of the other stuff that needed doing at my house — like sorting through stacks of papers, preparing my taxes, cleaning my den and home office, and picking up all those twigs and small branches that keep falling over into my backyard from my neighbor’s overgrown and unkept trees that line our border!

But none of those things are the real reason why I’m sitting back here in Nashville instead of chilling out there, in North Myrtle Beach this week! The real reason for my grown up decision came down to the most basic of things — money! I was forced to count the cost of engaging in this “free” vacation, in light of something more significant that I’m saving for  happening later in the year.

Under normal circumstances, I would not have thought twice about spending the money in gas (for the 1400-mile round trip journey), snacks, meals on the road, and sharing in the costs of food and entertainment once I got there. But that’s just it. Most people don’t think about all of the extra money it takes to take advantage of something that’s FREE. If you’re on a budget, or just watching your spending, you can’t just count the things you want. Money spent is money spent. What goes out today isn’t going to be there tomorrow.

When I talk about budgets in class, I start by having my students write down the amount for everything they currently spend in a month. I think it’s important to have a visual of your habits so that reality sets in before you make out a budget. I remind my students that they have to include everything — every cup of coffee, pack of gum, bottle of water, smartphone upgrade, oil change, new shoes, hair cut, mani-pedi, and pair of sunglasses they just couldn’t resist. For me, that would have meant adding about $200 in gas and probably another $100 for food; not including money for going out.

So while I would rather be curled up in a chair on the balcony of the condo right now, reading a good book and taking in all of the fresh salty smells of the coast, I know that putting off instant gratification today means being able to do something bigger and better later; like maybe this summer, when I’ll have  an entire month to chill!

What about you? When’s the last time you’ve taken a visual of your spending habits? Why not do it now, instead of waiting until you’re ready to take off for somewhere.

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How to Save Money and Watch Free Movies!

I just finished watching the movie Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Yesterday I enjoyed the Denzel Washington movie Magnificent Seven; and before that, it was Meryl Strep in Florence Foster Jenkins; and then the day before that it was Storks. The best part about catching up on all these movies is that they were FREE!

I have a sister who went without cable television for over a decade! It’s hard to imagine, but even before Netflix became a household name, my sister chose to watch most her movies in the comfort of her home — either buying or renting DVDs. The only thing she enjoyed doing more than watching movies was reading books. And it was at her favorite book place — the public library — that she discovered a way to watch even more movies, without spending any money on them!

I remember 20+ years ago when I first moved to Nashville, I couldn’t afford much more than the gas in my car, and trying to make rent each month. Whenever I was feeling stressed; sometimes depressed, or even bored, I would find my way to the local library, plop down in the magazine section, and mindlessly flipped through the home and garden, fashion, and Southern lifestyle type of magazines, without having to purchase a subscription. I also occasionally looked through the stack of VHS tapes, hoping to come across an old movie I hadn’t seen, or one I wanted to watch again.

But that was the 1990s; just as DVDs were growing in popularity, and long before there was anything related to streaming movies, or binge watching entire seasons of your favorite television shows.

As I moved up the corporate ladder, and leisure time became limited, but money became less of a problem, I didn’t visit the library as often. This was also during the growth of the digital age, smartphones, laptop computers, and later, streaming services. I subscribed to magazines I barely had the time to flip through; ordered up extended cable services I mostly didn’t have time to enjoy the selections on. And jumped on some of the social media platforms as they unfolded.

But while visiting my hometown over the past couple of years, spending time at my sister’s house, I was reminded of the value of the local public library.

Before I arrived for Christmas, my sister put a number of movies on her list so that we’d have plenty of them to watch while I was home for the holidays. What’s really cool about doing that, beyond the free part, is that it guarantees at least two hours of family time to watch a movie together, sitting next to each other, without a group of strangers surrounding us in a dark, sticky floor, and uncomfortable general-public used chairs.

Unlike the VHS tapes I used to pick up, the current DVD service at the library is usually on par with services like the RedBox. So what if you might have to wait a few days longer, or get on a list that might take a couple of weeks. Being able to check out new to DVD movies within a couple of days or weeks of their release for FREE is totally worth it!

So if one of your new year’s resolutions — spoken, thought, or written down — is to watch your spending habits, and create and stay on a budget, just know that you don’t have to give up enjoying life. You can still watch a great movie, without paying over a hundred dollars for cable or satellite service. You can check out books, DVDs, and even CDs from the library, or take an hour to relax and flip through current magazines. I have some friends who have never had cable in their house. They rent movies or stream them online. With a trip to your local library, you can take that a step further and pick some up for free!

Up next? Bad Moms and Ben-Hur! Yeah…I know. An interesting mix of drama.

Along Comes a Baby and More

Two weeks ago I spent Saturday afternoon at the baby shower of a long time friend. Sometimes, it’s really hard for me to believe just how long I’ve known this young lady, because she was only 13 years old when we first met. I’ve watched her grow up; become successful in not one, but several careers in her young life; fall in love, get married, and now…prepare to have her first baby!

In spite of how long it’s been since I first met her, I was still truly honored to be remembered and invited to her baby shower; as well being at her wedding, and the weddings and baby showers of her sisters. And after 23 years of having the pleasure of our professional relationship, what matters more is the lasting personal friendship.

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In addition to hanging out with her though, I ran into some other ladies who I’ve met in the same circles over the years. What is so cool about that? I realized at some point in the afternoon that we were all talking about our business, ministries, and professional activities we were engaged in.

Since starting Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, I’m always on the look out for finding young teens, college students, and women who are taking control of their financial futures by creating, developing, designing, and running their own businesses now, and not waiting for some magical moment to descend. So whether it’s service-oriented, consulting, talent-driven, beauty and fitness, health care, or even the entertainment industry that I myself am a part of, when my friends and former associates start branching out on their own, I want to be a major cheerleader, to help spread the word, as well as sharing any knowledge and suggestions I might have in any given area.

As I sat there listening as we caught up with one another, I took note of one young lady who said she’d been really busy lately working, but primarily for other people. She had been a Work for Hire with another company, but the content was totally hers. She said she was ready to take control over her brand. I knew she was right. She DID need to take over her own brand.

Another lady chimed in moments later, and said she’d been running her own company for almost a year, but was having financial challenges due to her lack of discipline with her money. I was impressed at her honesty. Since she was a single mother, she knew how important it was to get control over that area of her life, not just for the sake of growing her business, but for her family. I asked a few direct questions and uncovered at least a large part of the problem. For her, she was spending way more money picking up meals on the way home, rather than going shopping and preparing them at home.

It can be very tempting to take the safe way out — like working for someone else and picking up a pay check. Or the easy way out — like running through the drive-thru on the way home. But in the end, it almost always costs you more money. Being a Work for Hire, might be a way in to getting business, but it should be just that — a way to get in, not a means to stay in. Otherwise, your talent, and hard work is building someone else’s company and bank account. And at the end of each month, stopping by restaurants and fast food chains might seem economical, and definitely convenient, but the money adds up. Where you see only spending $10.00 on dinner tonight, it becomes $50.00 by the end of the week, which quickly adds up to $200.00 or more by the end of the month. And that doesn’t include the groceries that you DO buy for the other meals of the day. The reality is that smart shopping and creative meal planning will cost you a lot less than pizza, a bucket of chicken, or four kids’ meals a few times a week.

As I’ve said many times before, planning is the key. Whether you’re planning how to branch out on your own, build your own business, create a secondary source of income; or planning how best to save money for your family on meals and other household items, the main part of the process is the Plan.

When’s the last time you’ve asked yourself about your Life Plan? Do you have one? Where do you want to be this time next year? What about five years from now? Ten? Have you even given thought to what your financial situation will be when you’re ready to retire? What happens if you lose your job years before that retirement time?

There are a lot of questions we prefer not to think about; after all, we’re young, or perhaps already well off; or we think our job will last forever. But the truth is that we can’t control what the future holds. Things happen. Life happens. But we can begin to plan for various outcomes so that we are better prepared, should something unexpected come our way.

Why not grab a journal, and take a few moments to ask yourself some of these questions. Then step away, and come back to your answers later. Are they what you think they should be, or what you want them to be?

Think about that, and let’s talk more about it later.

Back to School Time

Don’t shoot the messenger, but the clock is ticking down to the start of the new school year! Now, for those of you northerners and west coast readers, you’re probably thinking, that woman’s crazy! We just got out a few weeks ago, and the fall start is almost two months away. Right? Well..wrong…if you live in the Southern states. My home state of Tennessee is headed back to class the first week of August. You read correctly.

Three weekends from now, several southern state parents will be franticly running around the shopping malls and discount stores, trying to finish up their required school supply lists, and purchase clothes and computer items needed for that following week. Maybe that’s why the planned Sales Tax Holiday for some states, including Tennessee, begins at the end of this month (July 29-31).

Now for those of you whose kids don’t return to school until after Labor Day, take a moment to catch your breath, lest that jaw dropping, big gasp moment finds you at a permanent loss of air.

Yes, gone are the days when summer break is a three-month vacation; except for most college students. But as a (really small) business owner, in addition to my full-time job as a college professor, this is one of my favorite times of the year. It’s not because I’m looking forward to getting stuck behind a school bus, or having to slow down through school zones, and everything else that school being back in brings! But I am looking forward to taking advantage of all of the back to school sales and savings that are about to kick off this week!

And while I don’t have any kids in school, that doesn’t keep me from taking advantage of stocking up on supplies during the sales tax holiday weekend. Remember, I’m all about planning ahead and saving money in the process. So as I look to expand my own back to work wardrobe, I might as well do it during the back to school sales extravaganza!

Now’s a good time to be on the lookout for what’s being offered. For starters, the one cent sale (on select items) is back at Office Depot. Other stores like Staples, Walmart, and Target, among others, have the predictable savings on basic school supplies as well as technology needs. So it’s not too early for you to do a little online research to seek out the best savings for what your household’s needs are, which helps to eliminate wasting gas driving all over town for different items, or paying too much for certain ones.

Want to read more about Back to School savings, check out this article on CBS Money Watch.

Christmas in July

Today marks the start of what I call the period of “mixed feelings.” While I’ve enjoyed the six weeks since school ended, I have just six weeks before the Fall semester starts up, and almost that much work to do in preparation for my classes. And while summer just officially arrived less than two weeks ago, this July also indicates that we are now headed down the second half of the year. It’s weird…we count down to summer, and before you know it, we’re counting back up to winter. And with that…Christmas!

Lest you think I’m one who can’t live in the moment, let me explain.

I don’t know where the phrase “Christmas in July,” came from. But after working in the music industry for almost two decades, I do know that most artists record their Christmas albums this month. Why so early? Well, it’s obvious. To get the recording completed, mastered, packaged, promoted, and shipped/distributed in time for the post-Halloween but pre-Thanksgiving radio play of the first single, and to take advantage of the short sales period, they have to start working on it in July. Just like fashion designers are already planning to showcase their spring and summer 2017 lines this fall, so that you’re ready to purchase them in season.

During my summer vacation, the local Hobby Lobby in the town where I was visiting friends already had not only their Autumn display, complete with Halloween pumpkins and Thanksgiving wreaths, but also two aisles of Christmas decor up exactly 24 hours before the Summer Solstice!

Even the Hallmark Channel has figured out a way to get in on the craziness. For the first two weeks of July, their Movie & Mysteries channel will air their Christmas movies from past years, while promoting the new ones coming up this holiday season (which for them, traditionally begins on Halloween night).

But rather than fight against it, why not take advantage of it?!

This weekend, you can begin finding some awesome sales on two seasons of stuff — the summer season we’re in, and the winter season that’s still over five months away. Retailers are moving summer out to make room for the fall. Along the way, they’re putting last year’s winter items back out, in the hopes of not having to warehouse it, so that they can fill the racks with the new season’s display. If you’re like me, it’s just too hot outside to get in the right frame of mind to purchase a winter coat in July. But for those who know you’ve got at least three full months of great weather conducive to the outdoors, then why not take advantage of drastic price reductions on summer — like bathing suits and beach towels, clothes and shoes, outdoor patio furniture and accessories (like outdoor pillows and rugs), outdoor lighting and candles, grills, and even air conditioners.

For those of you who took advantage of the mid-summer mark downs last year, I’m sure you enjoyed pulling out your summer patio chairs with the new cushions that you got for 50% or more less than your friends; and putting up that table umbrella that cost you 60% or 70% less than the one your neighbor bought in season. And this week, when everyone paid full price for those red, white, and blue flag colored plates for their Independence Day festivities this weekend, you pulled that box out from the closet that you collected  paper plates, cups and napkins in from last year, and gladly signed up to provide the paper products for all of the cookouts and picnics you’ve been invited to! Because you are not just a smart shopper, but you understand the value of saving money and making it a purposeful act to plan ahead.

So to you, and everyone else, Happy 4th of July Independence Day everyone!

 

Summertime Shopping

The word is spreading. And I’m happy about it!

Hung out with an old college friend last weekend. We spent a couple of days at Edisto Beach during my visit back to my South Carolina home state. Let me start out first with saying it’s really great having friends who want to spend quality time with you; especially friends you only get to see once a year. It’s even better when that friend offers up their family’s condo to do just that! It is a nice place on a beautiful golf course, with a small pond filled with large turtles. Are you getting the picture?

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Yes. It was a peaceful place to just do nothing. And we tried to do as much of that as we could.

But during one of our talkfests, Leigh was excited to share with me some really cool savings she happened upon on the way down to the beach. I don’t remember if she said it or I mentioned it, but the topic of catching raindrops came up as she started to share her incredible shopping savings.

Leigh is the mother of three, including two college students! She’s also married to an accountant. So making wise financial decisions is an important part of her daily family life. As a high school principal, Leigh also wants to be able to look professionally good at work. So when she went into a retail store to trade out a bathing suit she’d purchased earlier, she noticed a store sale that she couldn’t resist; after all, since she works year-round, and not off for the summer months as many of her teachers are, she needed a few more pieces for those super hot summer days in the South.

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But she wasn’t expecting such great savings; like the $90.00 dress she picked up for only $20 bucks! And the $58.00 blouse she got for $14.00. But probably the best savings of the day was a $50.00 shirt for just $5.00! So for less than $40.00 Leigh walked away with almost $200.00 worth of merchandise. And not just any merchandise, but clothes she actually needs and will wear. You see, that makes the difference. Shopping just for sales is the beginning of a problem, if that’s your only motivation. And that’s not where we at Catching Raindrops in Water Buckets, are coming from. However, if you’re shopping for need, then take the time to seek out sales, so that you’re also saving money (catching those raindrops) in the process!

So take the time to look for ways to save those dollars the next time you go shopping. There are plenty of savings out there for the taking. As a matter of fact, we’re coming into the best time period to purchase summer clothing and shoes for incredible prices. Why? Because our retailers seem to think that we’re ready for them to start loading in the Back to School fall items; even though the calendar says it’s not even the official first day of summer (June 21)!

But remember, their craziness is our gain!