Parenting Perspectives: Wild child humbles this second-time mom

I used to judge the mom at story time whose little boy wouldn’t sit still. Now I’m the mom who doesn’t even attend library events because it would result in nothing but chaos and wreckage.

I see the glares and hear the snide comments from parents who don’t understand what it’s like to have a “wild child.” The message, whether intended or perceived: Why can’t she control her offspring?

For years, I was among their ranks, mother only to a relatively laid-back kid. On some level, I credited my parenting for her good behavior. By that reasoning, bad behavior would result from poor parenting.

And then there was Owen, my beautiful, cherished little boy who came out of the womb like Bruce Banner after the gamma radiation.

Hulk smash!

He’s focused, determined, driven and independent. All are qualities I will admire tremendously when he’s 26. Not when he’s 2.

As a toddler, those personality traits translate into “unruly,” “naughty” and “wild.” After Owen’s first day of day care last month, our provider commented we “have our hands full.”

Every few weeks my husband and I attempt to bring Owen to church. It has yet to end well. The last time he crawled under pews until he was halfway up the sanctuary in a row of strangers.

In a matter of days in October, he ripped half the keys off my laptop’s keyboard, shattered my coffee pot, and broke a table lamp, the latter resulting in a small cut on his forehead.

The pediatrician who glued his cut (a purple blob he pulled off within the hour) suggested we enroll Owen in gymnastics to use up his “excess energy.”

We’d recently attended a birthday party at a gymnastics studio. I spent the entire party chasing him away from off-limits areas and dangerous apparatus.

And then there was the trail of destruction he left at my parents’ house over Thanksgiving: vacuum cleaner attachments strewn and broken (though big sister may be to blame for that), the plastic grapes plucked from their stems and chewed, the strip of paint he peeled off the basement floor, fragile tchotchkes wrestled away and placed up high.

“Giving in to him will reinforce his bad behavior,” my sister-in-law said after I told her about my failed attempt to teach Sunday school with Owen in tow. Tell that to the third-graders who wanted to hear a Bible story and not blood-curdling screams of a toddler held in a classroom against his will. And tell that to Owen, who has mastered the art of opening doors.

“Just distract him,” my mom has advised. Except he can’t be distracted from whatever forbidden fruit he’s discovered.

“Have you considered a padded cage?” a friend asked in response to the coffee pot fragmentation. That suggestion has potential.

I now empathize with those mothers I once smugly judged. I recognize their exhaustion, frustration and the valiant effort they make in simply going out in public with their wild child.

Maybe one day I’ll be as brave as them.

I wonder if Owen will enjoy story time at age 26.

Sherri Richards is mother of 5-year-old Eve and 2-year-old Owen and a reporter for The Forum. She can be reached at srichards@forumcomm.com

Smartphone for a smart Mama: Upgrading frugally

This spring, I wrote about how my husband and I were debating switching to smartphones. Our cell phone contract was up, giving us a window to make the leap.

My concern, of course, was the cost. Not just of the physical phones, but the monthly data plan and the temptation to purchase apps and other downloads. As I wrote, it’s way too easy to allow your tech wants to become expensive “needs.”

We talked with several friends and family members, compared price packages, and researched, researched, researched.

Finally, after months of debate (and years of being behind the tech curve), we recently leaped into unlimited minutes, texts and 2 GB of data each.

Best of all: Our new phone plan costs only $10 more per month total than we were paying for 700 shared minutes, 250 texts each and no data.

Of course, there are trade-offs. I’ll get to those.

In the end, we went with Straight Talk, a no-contract cell service sold through Wal-Mart. We had to buy our phones outright, and now pay $45 a month plus sales tax each for its Unlimited* plan (Note the asterisk, as the data isn’t actually limitless). You can enroll in auto pay, or buy the service cards in store or online.

Different Straight Talk phones operate on different networks. It was important to us to have service in rural eastern North Dakota, as that’s where we travel frequently, so we made sure the phones we purchased were designated CDMA-V, indicating they would use the Verizon network. (A Straight Talk CDMA-S phone would work on the Sprint network, as I understand it.) The codes are prominently displayed online, though I had trouble finding them in-store.

Because my husband loves his iPod Touch, I encouraged him to go with an iPhone. We were able to get a refurbished iPhone 4 for $300 through the Wal-Mart website. Not the latest and greatest, but that’s not what we need.

I wanted an Android, as I’m more familiar with that platform, so chose the cheap basic Galaxy Samsung Centura. The phone was $100 — a steal for a smartphone, it seems — and has so far been a good way for me to tiptoe into the smart world. I am a bit disappointed in the camera. (Because it doesn’t autofocus, barcode scanning apps don’t work well on it, and I was so looking forward to having a comparison shopping tool in my pocket. Also, there’s no flash.) Other than that can’t complain about the phone.

I can complain about the customer service. While my hubby was able to activate his phone with no problem, mine wasn’t properly scanned at the store which led to three hour-long stints on hold, conflicting advice from the customer reps and an all-around hair-pulling experience as I had to go back to the store and swap phones. But, as they say, you get what you pay for, and apparently you don’t get great customer service when you pay $45 a month for a data plan. (You also can’t tether devices on Straight Talk, which may be important to some.)

The activation headache aside, I’ve been pleased with our new cell service. We got to keep our numbers, the call quality has been good, and I’m now able to answer my inane trivial wonderings in the car.

I also haven’t paid for an app, and don’t plan on it.

Disclaimer: This post is not meant to be a recommendation for Straight Talk, simply an explanation of my experience for fellow frugalists out there looking to upgrade to a smartphone. I have not been compensated by any of the companies mentioned.

Money-Savin’ Mama: Don’t let your tech wants become expensive ‘needs’

I’ve always been behind the technological curve.

My family didn’t own a VCR until 1991. I listened to cassette tapes into the mid ’90s. I didn’t have cable TV or a DVD player till college, or my own computer until 2004.

I still don’t have an iPod or iPad or GPS or smartphone.

People talk about how they “couldn’t live without” these newer devices, like they’re food or water. Somehow, I survive.

I also save, not paying for mp3s, apps and data plans.

That said, I understand the allure of technology and how once you have it, you can’t imagine not.

When my husband and I switched to satellite TV, we eschewed the digital video recorder add-on. We’d survived nearly three decades without DVR. Why pay $5 a month for it?

But midway through our contract, we began to rethink the decision. We’d spent a weekend with friends who had DVR and it was really useful, zooming through a Twins game and catching up on missed sitcoms.

So when it was time to sign a new satellite contract in 2011, we added DVR.

I’ll never go back.

I also can’t imagine life without my Kindle Fire, a 2011 Christmas present. My husband, Craig, feels the same about his iPod Touch, which he won at a conference the same year. He never would have bought one for himself, and even considered returning it for store credit. Now, it’s a constant companion.

However, we’ve both avoided what I view as a big financial risk with these items, the temptation to overspend on songs and books and apps. It’s so easy with one-touch purchasing and the faulty rationalization that it’s “only a dollar or two.” Those dollars add up in a hurry.

Instead, I download free Amazon apps and borrow digital books from the Fargo Public Library. Craig uploaded his CD collection and streams free podcasts.

We’re likely in the minority, though. Statistics cited at Statista.com show spending on mobile apps increased from $4 billion in 2009 to $16 billion in 2012, and is expected to increase to $35 billion in three years. Apple generated $4.3 billion in revenue from iTunes music downloads in 2012 (and $13.5 billion in total iTunes revenue), according to AppleInsider.

People tend not to consider lingering costs of their purchases. They save up for a 60-inch flat screen TV, and then feel compelled to get the expensive HD cable package and Netflix subscription. They get Xboxes and iPads and now pay new monthly fees. They buy a fancy new car and don’t factor in the increased insurance costs.

And then they’re over-budget but see no way to trim expenses because they “can’t live without” these new gadgets and gizmos.

They’ve turned their wants into “needs.”

To be clear, there’s nothing wrong with owning flat screen TVs and Xboxes and iPads. It’s simply a matter of making sure you have enough money in your monthly budget to add these things to your life.

And that’s exactly where Craig and I are now as we debate making the move to smartphones.

Our cell phone contract is up for renewal this spring. Smartphones have been out long enough that the novelty has worn off and they’re starting to become more essential in the workplace. But would we pay less for a better product and plan if we waited two more years?

For a while, I’ve been tracking what I call “smartphone moments” – those times when I would have used it. As I can update Facebook and Twitter with a text message and my Kindle lets me web surf and email anywhere there’s wireless Internet, I average about one moment a day, usually when I wonder about some inane bit of trivia while riding in the car.

Certainly, I can live without that.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and reporter for The Forum. She blogs at http://topmom.areavoices.com

Money-Savin’ Mama: Ready to swipe again after all-cash diet

For Christmas, my 4-year-old daughter picked out a new wallet for my gift. It’s exactly the kind of wallet a 4-year-old girl would choose: bright pink and covered in swirly hearts. A silver heart pendant hangs from the front clasp.

Even though I’ve only been using the wallet since late December, I realized soon into a month-long plastic fast how my spending habits had conditioned the way I use it.
Each time I went to make a purchase, I automatically unsnapped and flipped open the wallet to the now-empty credit card slots. It took a few weeks before I’d trained myself to unzip the wallet’s cash compartment first.
I joked I was having swipe withdrawals.
Last month, I wrote about how credit cards, when used responsibly, are useful financial tools. But they do have downfalls. Mainly, people tend to spend more when using credit versus cash.
I wanted to see if I could operate without my cards, a social experiment as well as test of financial willpower.
Now at the end of my self-imposed challenge, I’m ready to unsnap and swipe again.
That said, there were benefits to my plastic furlough.
First, I found I could operate fairly well on cash. Clerk s didn’t bat an eye as I counted out my bills. I saved 3 cents a gallon on gas by paying cash. I was also far more aware of my purchases, and forced to make some either/or choices. This, I think, is the true benefit of cutting out the cards.
I did cheat once on Giving Hearts Day, an online fundraising effort. I gave my husband one of my twenties and had him make donations with his credit card on my behalf.
While my month-long challenge wasn’t meant to be an exercise of self-deprivation, my low-balled weekly allowance of $140 made it feel like one. I bought groceries and gas, paid babysitters and dined out twice with that money, and that’s about it. I didn’t bother going to department or big-box stores. Good thing I was stocked up on diapers.
Still, I only spent about $482 for the four weeks, staying under budget three of the four. In Week Two, I went off-list at the grocery store and needed to write a check, too embarrassed and stubborn to put any items back. I deducted my overage of $28 from the next week’s budget.
Without a card, I had to pass on several online daily deals that could have saved me 50 percent at those vendors. Of course, not buying them in the first place saved me 100 percent.
During the four weeks, the only activity on my credit card was one automatic payment to our Internet provider, a rewards credit and two payments, paying off the January bill and smaller February statement.
It is liberating to know I don’t owe Visa any money. And this past month I did spend less because I couldn’t spend more.
But cash also cost me. To pay bills, I needed to mail a check instead of paying them online, adding the cost of a stamp and check blank. I also sacrificed the 2 percent cash back rewards my card offers.
For purchases in which the dollar amount wouldn’t change based on my choices, it doesn’t make sense to use cash, only because I do pay off my balance in full each month.
Even on that discounted tank of gas, my rewards credit card would earn 7 cents per $3.50 gallon.
I also learned how important it is to write every expense down when working with cash. An envelope system would have helped me a lot.
So would have tucking all my receipts into my pretty pink wallet.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and reporter for The Forum. Read weekly updates from her plastic fast at http://topmom.areavoices.com

 

Plastic Fast, Week 3: Choices

In Week 3 of giving up my credit cards, I faced a choice: Put gas in my car or buy a case of Mike’s Hard Lemonade.

I chose Mike.

That probably doesn’t speak well of my priorities, but with a blizzard coming, I figured my husband and I would consume more of one than the other.

That snowstorm and a sick little girl kept me home-bound and under budget in Week 3 of my plastic fast, a feat I’m pretty proud of considering I’d cut my weekly allowance.

I gave myself only $112 to work with instead of $140, a penalty for going over budget in Week 2. I spent $103.28. That included two trips to the grocery store, a drop-in daycare appointment and my husband’s Valentine’s Day present (also purchased at a grocery store …), plus the Mike’s.

My hubby had to pick up some of the slack. His workplace had planned a potluck, and he asked if I’d make my scrumptious fruit pizza. I told him I’d gladly make it, but I couldn’t afford to buy the ingredients.

I also lucked out. Owen had a doctor appointment that comes with a $25 co-pay, but the receptionist didn’t request I pay it then.

I’m excited to get my full allowance to fill up the car and get some groceries, but am facing a bit of a dilemma. This Thursday is Giving Hearts Day, a 24-hour fundraising effort for 177 local nonprofits during which donations of $10 or more are matched. But it’s online, which equals plastic.

It’s a worthy enough cause to break my fast, but I’m looking to see if I have another choice.

Plastic Fast, Week Two: In over my head

It was not a good week in the land of cash.

A convergence of expenses — mainly an empty gas tank and dog dish and an impulsive grocery store outing  — left me holding the bag with not enough bills. So I wrote a check to cover my assets.

In the second week of giving up all my plastic, I spent $28 over my self-imposed $140 cash allowance.

While I didn’t use my plastic (technically a success that way), I discovered operating on cash doesn’t work well without some sort of structure, like an envelope system. I also slacked on writing down my outlays, so had to spend more time figuring out my weekly totals.

I filled up my car’s gas tank on Tuesday, earning a 3-cent-per-gallon discount by using cash. I only had one squirmy kid with me and there was no line in the convenience store, so it wasn’t as big of a headache as I’d feared.

On Wednesday, I needed to get more prescription food for our pooch. That cost $27.08. Also, I paid $13.50 in cash to the drop-in daycare, where Owen played while I visited the dentist (a check-up paid for by check).

I planned to spend about $45 when I went to the grocery store Thursday. I knew I was limited in cash, but shopped like I wasn’t. I was lured by excellent prices on produce, pop and Pop-tarts, and went off-list not considering the consequences. As I watched the total climb at the register, I quickly realized I was in over my head. My total was $60.86, more than I had in my wallet. I was too embarrassed and stubborn to put anything back, so I wrote a check.

A neighbor girl helped me out with the kids after school, so I needed to pay her. I’d promised Eve lunch at McDonald’s on Friday. And my favorite thrift store had a 49-cent sale Saturday, where I spent $3.14. That put my week’s total at $168.19 (not to mention my husband’s supermarket trip for Super Bowl snacks).

I suppose I could justify that I was $44 under budget in Week One, but my goal was to spend less than the $140 target each week. So this week, I’m penalizing myself for my extravagence. I’ll have only $112 to work with. I already spent $10.49 at the store this morning, a desperate run for toilet paper and coffee creamer.

Time to pinch my pennies.

Money-Savin’ Mama: Going on a plastic fast

I applied for my first credit card, a MasterCard, shortly before starting my freshman year of college. My limit was $200. The first time I used it was that spring break, to buy a shirt. I still have the card in my wallet, nearly 15 years later.

My parents drilled solid financial advice into me when it came to credit cards. Save it for emergencies. Pay it off in full every month. Don’t buy something with it unless you have the cash in the bank to pay for it right then and there. Only get a card if it has a long grace period to avoid interest and fees.

I didn’t fall prey to the “sign up for a card and get a T-shirt” tables in the student union. I stayed in control of my spending.

Confession: I did pay interest and fees, once. I needed cash, so used my credit card at an ATM. My bank didn’t offer debit cards yet. I had no clue how expensive cash advances were. I never did it again.

Follow-up confession: I needed the cash because I was at a bar and wasn’t yet 21, so obviously couldn’t write a check. I don’t think I did that again, either.

But through the years, I did start to use my card more and more. My credit limit increased. I got a Visa card that offered rewards. Businesses stopped taking checks. Banking became paperless. Today I use my card for everything, still paying it off in full every month.

In general, I’m a fan of credit cards. They help build your credit score when used responsibly. They’re convenient, letting us pay some bills automatically. They offer rewards, basically a discount on everything you buy. A piece in the Dec. 24 issue of Forbes magazine suggests cash-back credit cards, when paid off in full every month, are one way to capitalize on others’ financial stupidity.

But, as I wrote in an article about credit card traps in Thursday’s SheSays section, many people don’t use them wisely. They use them to live beyond their means.

Gail Vaz Oxlade puts people she counsels on her TV shows on a cash-only diet, confiscating their plastic. Financial guru Dave Ramsey draws a firm line against credit cards.

While I don’t fully agree with Ramsey’s take on cards, one of his points hits home: It’s easier to spend more when you use a card than when you use cash.

Ramsey’s website cites a study of credit card use at McDonald’s that found people spent 47 percent more when using credit instead of cash.

You can “feel” cash leaving you, Ramsey says. You’re more aware of your spending when you use real money.

I realized this last year when I took on a grocery spending challenge, limiting myself to the federal thrifty meal plan food budget for three. I used cash envelopes to keep on target. But one day, absentmindedly, I used my card.

While I could tell you to the penny what I spent on the grocery trips where I paid cash, I had to consult my receipt to remember how much I spent when I swiped.

Plus, my 2 percent rewards card isn’t doing me much good if I’m spending more than I otherwise would.

So I decided to take on another personal challenge: to live one month without my cards.

I’ll spend cash for all the things I typically use my credit cards for, like groceries, household supplies and gas. I’m dreading having to take both my squirmy kids inside the station to pay.

My plan is to take $140 from the ATM each week, aiming to spend less. If a major expense comes up, I hope I can write a check.

Because my challenge is for only a month, I won’t cancel the one auto payment on my card (our Internet provider). But I won’t pay other bills online or over the phone. I won’t shop online. I’ll try not to cheat by having my husband pay instead. I’ll have to hold extra tight onto my usually cash-void wallet.

Goodbye, Visa and MasterCard.

Hello, George, Abe, Andrew and Ben.

Sherri Richards is a thrifty mom of two and employee of The Forum.

Parenting Perspectives: Language breakthroughs at every age

My latest Parenting Perspectives column, printed in The Forum Dec. 25 …

My house is on the verge of a language explosion.

Little Owen, now 16 months, babbles from morning to night, forming every consonant sound along the way. But he has yet to meld these syllables into many words beyond “mama” and “dada.”

Honestly, I’d been a bit worried about his language development. Big sister Eve started talking before a year, and I don’t think she’s stopped to take a breath since.

At one of Eve’s toddler check-ups, the pediatrician asked how many words she knew. I had no clue. She was stringing together sentences as long as eight words by then.

Logically, I know boys tend to pick up verbal skills later than girls, and Owen is well within the range of normal. A developmental screening showed me so.

He communicates, the child development screener reassured me. He points his perfectly pudgy hand at exactly what he wants. He sharply nods his head once for yes and shakes it like an oscillating fan for no. He taps his index finger against his palm to mean “more” and wiggles his fingers for milk, his own adaptation of the common baby signs.

But spoken words are such rewarding milestones. And once baby knows enough of those words, parenting gets just a bit easier. It’s not so much of a guessing game of what your child wants or needs.

One day, Owen was in his high chair. “Wawawawawa,” he babbled.

“Water?” I asked. “Do you want a glass of water?”

When I started to fill his sippy cup at the kitchen sink, he shrieked in delight and understanding. I call it our Helen Keller moment. I’m anxiously awaiting more.

Meanwhile, 4-year-old Eve is advancing her language skills as well, beginning to read. It’s amazing to watch her take these 26 letters we’ve been reciting for years, attach sounds to their shapes, and put it all together. It’s like something just clicked in her preschool head.

Thanks to my husband, Craig’s, patient efforts each night, she’s now reading us bedtime stories. We write down random words to make sure she’s reading and not just reciting.

One day Craig wrote down f-a-r-t. Eve studied it, and politely said she wasn’t going to say “that word” aloud. He added h-e-r to the end and she sounded out “farther.”

Eve’s foray into reading has also made me realize just how difficult our language is to decode, as I try to explain why there’s no “sh” in sure; why the “gh” makes no sound in light or through but sounds like “eff ” in enough and tough; why “o” can also sound like “ah” or “ooh” or “ow;” why Christmas doesn’t start with a “k” and why the “ch” doesn’t sound like it does in church.

“Some words are just silly,” is my best explanation.

Such silly words to read, and so sweet to hear.

Sherri Richards is mom to 4-year-old Eve and 1-year-old Owen and a reporter for The Forum. She blogs at topmom.areavoices.com

Shiny Happy Faces

Every day this week, the mailman has brought me greetings from afar, typically photo cards featuring the smiling faces of friends and family. But this year, I’ve started to wonder about these picture-perfect greetings.

I’ve sent picture Christmas cards since 2003, the first featuring Craig and my engagement photo. The next year was a photo from our wedding, bubbles surrounding us as we exited the church. We posed in front of the tree with our kitty and puppy in 2005. My pregnant belly filled the 2007 card. And in 2008, we were back in front of the tree, this time with Baby Eve.

Our photo cards continued to reflect our growing family. But this year, something seemed a little fake about the cards I sent, which featured this picture prominently:

Yes, Santa, we’ve been good all year.

We’d dressed up in color-coordinated outfits, braved the photo studio on a Saturday morning, and our patient photographer captured that stereotypical family photo during our 20-minute session. Yes, it’s us. But it’s not reality.

This is reality:

Seriously, are we done yet?

And this:

Here comes Santa Claus … and there goes Owen.

And if Christmas cards were about reflecting reality, I would have sent one of those pictures as my card. It would have been funny. I’m pretty sure my mother would have been appalled.

But looking at the stack of holiday greetings I’ve received from others, it seems standard practice to send out shiny-faced posed versions of ourselves.

Why? Is it a self-conscious desire to always put our best foot forward? Does it have to do with the nature of Christmas itself? We adorn trees and houses and gifts with pretty dressings, of course we would do the same to ourselves.

I read a quote not long ago (attributed to Pastor Steve Furtick): “The reason we struggle with insecurity is we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.” What would happen if we all started to send cards (and letters, for that matter) that reflected our behind-the-scenes life?

Maybe next year I’ll be brave enough to send a card documenting one of the funny/exasperating/embarrassing/warts-and-all moments sure to happen in 2013.

For now, Merry Christmas from my smiling (and crying, whining, laughing, fighting, loving, messy) family to yours.

Lucky husband, lucky wife

My husband and I exchanged Christmas presents tonight. It felt a little naughty to be opening gifts two full weeks early, in front of our kids, no less. But we were both pretty excited to give — and get.

I’d written about buying Craig’s present at a dollar store. Like a good husband, he’d read my column and inquired about it Friday evening at the mall. “So you spent $4 on my gift?” he asked. “Yep,” I said with a smile. I told him it was something he’d mentioned wanting, but wouldn’t give him any hints beyond that.

On Saturday, Little Owen found a little package under the tree, and started ripping the ribbon off. I grabbed it from him before he tore the paper. Since I hadn’t put that present under there, I figured Craig must have. As I looked at it, I noticed it didn’t have my name on it, but a sticker on the bottom did have a telling name: Riddle’s Jewelry.

Our mutual curiosity got the better of us and we agreed to open our gifts early (Note this was a couple weeks after we both agreed that our trip to Vegas would be our gift to each other this year). I gave him his present first.

Inside the gold paper-wrapped box were four 20-ounce wine glasses, purchased for $1 each at Dollar Tree. Craig and I enjoy an occasional glass of wine, and awhile back he said how he’d love to have some really big wine glasses, which are better suited for red wine. (Not to mention drinking more wine at one time, but, yeah, let’s go with oxidizing the wine).

One of our new big honkin’ wine glasses, at right. I photographed it with one of our current glasses at left to show the difference in size.

Then it was my turn. I tried to show restraint as I unwrapped the package. Inside a white lidded box was a shiny red-hued jewelry box. And inside that was a gorgeous white gold sapphire and diamond pendant.

Bling!

I was speechless. And frankly … confused. I thanked Craig sincerely, but really didn’t understand why he would buy me this extravagant gift. Who was this man and what had he done with my tightwad husband?

Craig asked me how much I thought he’d spent on the necklace. I said I didn’t know, and that it didn’t matter, but he could tell me if he wanted. Maybe he got it for 60 percent off …

Nothing, he said. He’d won it at as a door prize at a business networking event last week, and picked it up while we were at the mall Friday night.

Ahh, now this gift made sense!

Those who know my accountant husband will laugh. This guy is uncommonly lucky at winning things. A couple summers ago he won a Big Green Egg grill, a freezer and bundle of meat through a radio contest. Last year, he won an iPod Touch at a CPA event. A few years ago, at a Forum party, we won a patio fire pit, $100 spa gift certificate and a $25 restaurant gift card (I think it was all him, but we’d comingled our tickets so it’s tough to say).

I already knew he’d won a $25 restaurant gift card at the networking event. He told me he’d registered for a few more prizes, but (here’s the kicker) he was almost out of business cards when he went so wasn’t able to sign up for very many.

He knew he couldn’t wait until Christmas to tell me about the free $500 necklace. Just like I couldn’t wait for him to open his $4 set of wine glasses.

So I washed a couple ginormous glasses, popped open a bottle of Penny Sale wine, and we toasted our gifts and our frugal family.

I’m one lucky wife to have such a lucky husband.