Tag Archives: experiment

Vehicular Therapy

Something new to me is the peace that comes from the solitude found during a morning commute.

Before kids, I would wake at the last possible minute before dashing through my morning routine and flying out the door and down the road to work.

Four years as a SAHM meant no silence in the car, never a true chance to let my thoughts flow and truly listen to what my body and mind were telling me.

Sure, there were times when I could do some introspection, which lead to one of my best posts of all time.

Sure, I could listen to my audiobooks while the kids entertained themselves in the backseat.

Yes, there were chances to talk with other adults on the phone while I drove.

But to truly seek yourself every morning takes either discipline or forced solitude.  Like my morning commute.

Eight Weeks of Intensive Therapy

I have been at my “new” job for a little over two months.  Since we live in the middle of nowhere, I have a minimum of 35 minutes in the car each morning.

I’ve been training myself to select the day’s outfit and pack my lunch the night before plus set my alarm to give me plenty of time to bathe, dress, paint and coif, eat, and possibly care for a small child that woke too soon.  Most mornings, I am beyond blessed to get out the door without the kids waking and seeing me off.

Any parent who has walked away from a crying child with the guilt of “I’m putting my paycheck before you, little one” knows what it means to leave before they’re even awake.

I take my time because I’ve gifted myself that time.  I climb into my little four-door, four-cylinder car, pull out of the driveway, and get my mind into the zone.  No music or audio books.  No rush where I have anger or panic to focus on.  No one in the car to watch me as I silently run through a gamut of emotions because I’m mentally pulling apart the past few years of my life.

Or, some days, my whole life.

I spend roughly 30 minutes every morning picking through my experiences, thoughts, and emotions like I’m untangling a knot of metal chains that have rusted together.

I practice deep breathing and different levels of prayer and meditation.

I am working on picking myself back up, one mile at a time.

Underrated

One day, taking a long lunch away from my desk and picking up a dear friend from her nearby work, I confessed to her what I had been doing.  It was pouring rain and we had a slightly rushed lunch in a loud, packed Panera.  As we sat in her work’s parking lot, I told her that I had been working through some of my issues during my morning commutes.

She nodded emphatically.  She said she knew what I was talking about, knew how critical that alone time is for her in her busy life.  She agreed with me that vehicular therapy is underrated.

That is why I’m sharing it with you.  You need to know this.  You, who get up in the morning (or evening) to go to work, to spend time away from family and home and friends and an ever-growing to-do list; you, who find yourself wound up and bent out of shape before you make it to your lunch break; you, who wonders what more is there to life or if there’s something wrong with you or why can’t I find the perfect job, perfect car, perfect friend, perfect lover.

You, my dear reader, need to know what a blessing your commute time is.  This is your chance to truly be by yourself and look narrow and deep or wide and shallow at your life, your behaviors, your future.

Embrace your vehicular therapy time.

Personally

I’m working through a year’s worth of grief.  I’m working through a lifetime of pain cause by my mother and almost a decade of issues with my mother-in-law.  I’m working through the drama and bullshit that came about after a lying liar lied about me…and was believed.  I’m working through long-term goals and what my hang ups are.  I’m working through marital issues, mommy guilt, crises in faith, and so much more.

I recommend you do the same.

Because I feel more on the level now than I have in a very long time, even though to an outsider it may look like I’ve bitten off more than I can chew.

Personally, I will tell everyone I encounter about the joys and blessings that come from 30 minutes of silent introspection at least 5 days a week.

Reviewing 4 Top Coupon Apps for Android Phones

Two months ago, I began an experiment with couponing apps for my smartphone.  I downloaded IbottaCheckout 51MobiSaveCoupons.com, and Receipt Hog specifically for their offers and pay-outs.  I also have downloaded store-specific apps (like Walmart’s Savings Catcher and Target’s Cartwheel) that I’ll review at a later date. 

Disclaimer: I am not being paid in any way, shape, or form to review or endorse these apps. I mean, I’m getting deals and offers and such from them like any other user, but the companies behind these services haven’t given me anything special to talk about them. The apps are free to download. 

Sadly, Receipt Hog notified me via email that they do not have any spots currently available and their wait list is long.  Therefore, without further ado, I present to you FOUR of the Top Coupon Apps for Androids.

App Name:  Ibotta

Google Play Rating: 4.25 Stars (209k+ ratings)

Earned in First Month:  $12.65

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.  I just discovered that you can link your store loyalty cards to “unlock” rewards before you shop; my most frequently shopped store with a loyalty card is not on their list of Preferred Partners.

When you’ve done your shopping and maybe selected other rebates, you select the “Verify Purchases” button.  This leads you through two steps:  Scan Product Barcodes and Take a photo of your Store receipt.  On some items, you will not scan a barcode, like certain produce.  But since most items need to be scanned, this isn’t something you can do from the comfort of your bed or even your desk at work.  Depending on how your kitchen and pantry are set up, it may be easier to get this app going while you’re putting your groceries away.  After you’ve scanned your product barcodes, you’ll use the app to take photos of your receipt.  I have super long receipts all the time since I do bulk shopping and use shopper cards and coupons; this has to be my least favorite part of Ibotta, which has nothing to do with Ibotta and everything to do with lining up the edges and where I left off from the previous photo.

The amount you’ve aggregated in rebates goes into My Balance with which you can transfer cash to a linked PayPal or Venmo account or you can buy gift cards to places like Target, Olive Garden, JoAnn Fabrics, and more.  Of all of these options, your balance must be $20.00 minimum.

Ibotta is all about teamwork.  The social media accounts you link will be checked for “friends” that also use Ibotta, and without you lifting an extra finger, your teammates “work” together to save and earn towards Teamwork levels.  You also are rewarded for inviting friends; currently, if a friend joins Ibotta with your referral code, they receive a $10 welcome bonus and you receive $5.

There are more ways to save, like with Bonus Rebates and completing little challenges that differ each month.  These help you move along towards reaching that $20 threshold.  Without the sign-on bonus and these extras, it looks like it would take me a long time to reach that cash out amount.

Screenshot from my Ibotta account

Pros:  Easy to use; can select frequently visited stores to make finding rebates easier

Cons:  Required to scan product barcodes; like most coupons, these rebates are mainly for name brand or new products, both of which I tend to avoid

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Checkout 51

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (47k reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.00

My Thoughts:

The set-up was very simple and similar to other savings apps’ opening procedures.  I recommend looking over what’s offered before going shopping to match the rebates with other coupons and sales.

There is a very long list of offers each week that can be refined by selecting categories or stores.  There is not, however, a search bar.  This makes scrolling necessary and tedious.  Frequently, I do not find any offers that suit me.  The offers you “star” are listed, you select the option to take the photo(s) of your receipt, then once you click “finish”, you wait while it uploads.  And wait.  Then you get a congratulatory screen telling you how much you’ve saved.

It says, “You can request a check when your account balance reaches $20.”  This could take a very long time, considering most offers are like coupons and for only 10 or 40 cents. Once you claim a starred offer, you most likely won’t be able to claim it again.  You don’t have to scan the individual items. The receipt-photo-taking process is similar to other rebate and savings apps.

Screenshot from my Checkout 51 account

Pros:  Many options; get a real check

Cons:  Rarely are there offers I’ll use; terminal scrolling to view all offers

Verdict:  DELETE

 

App Name:  MobiSave

Google Play Rating:  3 Stars (2,393 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $1.55

My Thoughts:

I don’t recall how I even heard of this one, but I liked the idea that I received the benefits of selected offers right away, like if I were using a paper coupon at the checkout.  The set-up was quick and simple.  There is a short list of offers.  After photographing your receipt, you’ll “paperclip” which offers actually apply to that receipt.  Once they’re confirmed, the money saved is sent directly to your PayPal account.

I do bulk shopping so the last time I used MobiSave, I had 6 receipts that were all quite long.  The way this app is set up to capture images of your receipts makes it difficult to know where your last picture ended and your next needs to begin.  In the end, there were 4 offers that applied to me.  There were 4 deposits made to PayPal within an hour.  My first payment from MobiSave was only $.40, but I got it right away without waiting and saving up to a $20 threshold.

Screenshot from my MobiSave account

Pros:  Immediate deposit into PayPal; frequently offered “any type, any size” deals

Cons:  Not many offers; can’t see previous pictures in series when photographing long receipts

Verdict:  KEEP USING

 

App Name:  Coupons.com

Google Play Rating:  4 Stars (18,800 reviews)

Earned in First Month:  $0.00, but I may have saved some by loading deals to my Pay-Less card

My Thoughts:

I have used Coupons.com in the past to select deals and print coupons to present at checkout.  This app allows that as well as linking to your store shopper cards for automatic digital coupons.

You *must* visit the app prior to shopping, not after.  They don’t want to capture your receipt if you have a store loyalty card; they want to provide coupons directly to the card.  Part of the set-up for this app is typing in the numbers on your loyalty cards.  If you are like me, you don’t even have these because you provide your phone number to the cashier.  I use my Kroger Plus card and I frequently use their digital coupons option, so I logged into that account to access my card number to copy-and-paste into this app.

For stores you frequent that do not use loyalty cards, you will submit your receipt after shopping.  When you’ve submitted receipts and they’re accepted, you receive cash back via PayPal.

Coupons.com has a whole slew of other money saving options, like printable coupons and online coupon codes for sites like Overstock and Guitar Center.  I’ve used their printable coupons in the past, from their website and not this app, and can attest to the safety of the printing software they need you to use.  If you use the app to select coupons, you have the option to print or email them.  I do not have a WiFi compatible printer but have emailed myself the link to print directly from my computer.  Check your library for wireless printing if you’d like to use this option.

Although I downloaded and accessed this app the same as the other savings apps, I have yet to use anything off of it.  I don’t use the products they have presented in the time I’ve been doing this little experiment (seven weeks at the writing of this review).

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account, showing what I could redeem with either loading to my loyalty cards or submitting receipts.

Screenshot from my Coupons.com account

Pros:  Many ways to save

Cons:  Lots of offers to scroll through only to discover I won’t use any of them

Verdict:  DELETE but keep visiting the website on my laptop for paper coupons

Four Week Experiment: Budgeting with the exactness of February

If you want to read the back story, the tale that got us to this point, read the last Thoughtfully Sought blog post.

Exactly four weeks

After looking over the amount of money that went flying out of our wallets from September 2014 through January 2015, I was sick.  Really, that’s what we do with our hard-earned money?  We have one income, people, so the last thing we need to do is any spending on what we don’t NEED.

Of course, needs are relative.  But I digress.

I got out my handy-dandy my pocket calendar to mark the dates I went shopping in December and January.  I definitely did better but not good enough.  I flipped to February and felt like I’d gotten a golden egg.  There were EXACTLY four weeks in February 2015, the 1st being a Sunday and the 28th being a Saturday.  It was an OCD SAHM’s dream-come-true.

I wrote in the tiny boxes which days I would shop, which days we would have dinner guests or weekend guests, which days would need to see the coffee pot cleaned or the water softener refilled, and which days got which recipes for dinner and then leftovers.  When I was done, I was beaming.  I may not take meds for it but that doesn’t mean I don’t fully recognize my obsessive-compulsive moments.

I knew, just KNEW, we could stick to our budget.  However, I love contingency plans.  I plan everything to give myself the comfort of (imagined) control, and I plan back-up plans for back-up plans.  February saw the first attempt of the Murphy family using the envelope system.

Abbreviated

You can learn all about the envelope system by Dave Ramsey here and here and here and here and here.

In no way, shape, or form am I benefiting from sharing these articles or Dave Ramsey’s efforts with you.  I am receiving no compensation from any of these sites.  (I know, too bad, right?)

The BHE and I decided we would start with just two envelopes:  groceries and house.  All of our bills are automated and only “fluctuate” by going down, as we are not adding to our credit card debt and our mortgage and car payments are set.  (Note:  we round these up.  The car payment due on the 28th of every month is $181.75 so I have $185 automatically withdrawn every month.  Capiche?)

Because of the hassle that is unemployment benefits with a return-to-work date, the BHE took cash from the ATM each week.  It was divided between our two accounts, since some bills come from his and some come from mine, and then we put $400 in one envelope and $100 in another.  Thus began the experiment.

What happened

The short version:  while we were WAAAAY more aware of what we’d spent working with just cash, we still went over budget.  By $30.53.  And I can show you the three empty wine bottles and consumed 12-pack that the $30-and-change bought us.

Let me be real, folks:  we didn’t NEED the alcohol but we were hosting our two very good friends and their kids for a long weekend.  Since they traveled hours to see us and were bringing lots of groceries to feed all of us, the least we could do is buy some booze.  Booze we blew through in the first night.  So had to go buy more… but I digress.

We didn’t spend the whole $100 that was set aside for the house.  In fact, we barely spend $20.  The goal this winter layoff was to work on house projects for which we already had the supplies.  There were rooms that needed finishing touches and we had the paint or trim or what-have-you just sitting in the basement.  So that was a WIN for us.

Where we lost

I went through each receipt to see what we really spent our money on.  I feel like there should be a self-help class for people with our sweets addiction.  I kid you not. We spend almost $20 on candy alone.  Haribo gummy candies and some chocolates.  Candy, people.  Processed corn syrup and good dyes and fake “natural flavors”… all ingredients that don’t fit our diet guidelines of whole, unprocessed, healthy, organic foods.

Ok, I take that back.  There’s a candy line Yummy Earth that the BHE found at Walgreens.  So SOME of the candy we bought fit our self-prescribed guidelines.  Whatever.

The alcohol was the other thing.  Including the booze bought for our weekend with friends plus the fact that we like a beer now and then (and I’ll never say no to a glass of white wine), we spent almost $60 on alcohol.  One hand is patting me on the back and reminding me that we used to spend that kind of money for one weekend in just the two of us; the other hand is giving me the finger for being so dumb.  Whatever.  I’m an adult.  If I am going to break my budget on alcohol, so be it.

We also spent $41 and change at restaurants during February.  Yes, this came out of the grocery budget.  It’s food, right?  One trip to McDonald’s for sundaes because all three of us had sore throats; one trip to Subway because we were both craving sandwiches and we were driving by one; and one trip to Max and Erma’s with family we almost never eat out with after a day-long birthday party.  I’d say “not bad” on that account.

Here we are in March

It is March 2nd.  I spent the Angel Baby’s nap calculating what we spent and where during February.  Then I pulled up every weekly ad to every store where I shop and wrote down what was on sale that we would normally buy.  While on the Payless (Kroger) site, I logged into my account to load digital coupons to my Kroger Plus card.  I would’ve done the same at the CVS site but I didn’t seen anything in the ad that would get me to go there this week.  Then I went to Coupons.com and “clipped” coupons for things we would normally buy.

That’s the trick:  what you’d normally buy.  Clipping coupons for shit you don’t need so that you buy it, even for less than its regular price, is exactly what manufacturers want you to do.  It also screws your budget.

I compared this list to my already-written list of food, drinks, and supplies.  Next to each item, I wrote an abbreviation for the store at which I’d purchase them.  Then I looked at the forecast and chose the day I’d go do this major shopping trip.  If you are following this, I may suggest you check the weather first.  See, if the weather was going to be total shit until, say, Thursday, well, so many sale ads end or begin on Thursdays.

Stay tuned.  I’ll let you know how tomorrow’s shopping turns out.