June 30, 2010

$150 Challenge and Extra Expenses

                                                     $150 Challenge

When I set up the $150 Challenge I neglected to take a couple of things into account. In July we will be going to New York to visit my mother and our son is scheduled to have his Senior pictures taken in July.

If I waited until everything was perfect to plan a challenge, then it would never happen.  After all where is the "challenge" if I didn't have to deal with extra expenses?  So the challenge is still on no matter what.  Actually the trip money is set aside, it is the Senior pictures that I forgot about.  The sitting fee for the pictures is between $100 and $150 depending on how many outfits my son wears (yes, the photographer used the word outfits). 

It would appear that the $150 Challenge money may be used towards the photographer's sitting fee.  I'm not discouraged.  I'm encouraged as I know I can do it and I also know that this will help our budget by planning ahead, cutting back and saving for that sitting fee. 

This is what it is all about, being able to save money to handle the extras.  As to the accountability factor in this challenge, I will be posting each Monday what I spent the week prior and compare it to past weekly spending. 

$150 Challenge and Utility usage

I love the d.v.d. series Band of Brothers. I know, it is pretty violent, but that is war.  My father served in World War II and became disabled due to his injuries.  I have a lot of respect for our citizen soldiers. In one episode of Band of Brothers, General McAuliffe visits the front lines during the Battle of the Bulge. Our men had very little ammunition and no winter clothing. Also the lines were running very thin with men and they were having trouble holding back the Germans. General McAuliffe makes this statement “Hold the line, plug the holes. There is a lot of “blank” heading this way and with the fog, there will be no drops.”

Our soldiers did hold off the Germans and under very difficult circumstances including very little resources.

What does this have to do with the $150 challenge? I need to plug the holes in our budget. A few months ago I wrote a post talking about the little things adding up and they do.

Utilities are a big part of our budget. We have budget billing and pay the same each month, however, every quarter the utility company reviews our usage and increases or decreases the bill. I know it is obvious, but I never really thought about our electric or natural gas consumption and taking steps to reduce it. That is, until now.

This morning my DH told me that our electric bill for the month of May was the highest it had ever been. We had some very warm days toward the end of May so we naturally ran the air conditioners. I am now pondering ways to save on electricity and I am also trying to figure out why it was so high that month.

1. Turning off lights and TV: I am the one that is constantly turning off lights or the TV. when left on. I know, mothers have been facing this uphill battle ever since TVs and electricity were invented. I hate to nag about it, but the nagging may get worse until the message gets across.

2. Hanging clothes on the line: This week I started hanging our laundry on the line with the exception of my husband’s dress shirts and pants and towels. I have noticed that when I dry clothes it is taking a lot longer to dry them in the dryer. Could it be that the dryer is not performing as well? That would be the natural answer. Then the more I thought about I realized that the new washing machine had a larger tub and I was trying to dry too large a load in the dryer. The solution: I can split the loads of towels and dry half at a time. However, I do believe the next time I will dry them on the line and then while they are still a little damp, toss them into the dryer to fluff them. As to my husband’s dress clothes, when dried in the dryer they do not need ironing and that is a big plus to me.

3. Energy Efficient Lightbulbs: The dollar store has energy efficient light bulbs for only $1.00 each. I plan on replacing all of our light bulbs over the next month with energy efficient bulbs. We have some lamps that we only use once in a while, so I will leave the incandescent bulbs in those lamps for now.

4. Start unplugging: Today I am unplugging lamps and other electric items that we leave plugged in all the time that we don’t use daily.

5. Not using as many lights: It is okay to use the natural light coming through the windows on a cool day as your only lighting. We get too used to flicking a switch to turn on a light and it isn't necessary most of the time.

6. Air conditioners and fans: When we run our air conditioner we already have the temp set at a higher setting and I always keep the drapes closed when the sun is pouring in the house on those warm days. On the cooler summer days, how many fans do we need to have running at a time?

I remember reading somewhere that a woman did all of the above and she saved close to $30 a month on her electric bill and she lived in an apartment.

Our budget utility billing is reviewed every quarter and goes up or down according to our usage. I know that July and August are prime months for air conditioning in our area and I won’t turn off the air conditioning when it is very hot. I will make as many changes as I can to take the edge off of high electric usage months so that the bill won’t go up and over time, it will go down.

In September we will need to be more diligent about winterizing the house by caulking, weather stripping and putting plastic on windows.

Anyone have any other ideas for reducing utility bills?

June 29, 2010

"The Farmer's Wife" a dvd review

Back in 1998 David Sutherland produced a series on PBS entitled "The Farmer's Wife."  I remember watching the three episodes over three evenings.  I have never lived on a farm.  My Uncles had small farms that they maintained along with careers in teaching.  We live in Iowa where there are a lot of farm operations.  When the weather has been bad, such as now with the flooding, you can almost feel the tension in the air of farmers that are trying to get into their fields to spray the soy beans or watching their fields turn into small lakes. 

I could never do it.  Perhaps I don't have enough faith or enough resilience.  I admire farm wives as they carry the burden of the farm operation along with their husband.  They help on the farm, raise the children, keep chickens and a garden for their family's use and also to sell eggs and produce at the farmer's market.  I think it is a life you either love or hate.

So, there I sat for three nights watching a farm family in Lawrence, Nebraska and seeing them fight to save their farm and also their marriage.  David Sutherland followed Darrel and Juanita Buschkoetter for over three years on location at their farm.  The cameras caught everything. 

It showed a desperate struggle to save their farm operation.  It also showed the stress and how it affected their marriage.  Juanita went from being a passive farm wife to a wife that was fully involved in the farm operation down to understanding everything about FHA and all the finances of the farm.  Darrel at one point was working in a factory and coming home to farm.  One time it showed him driving a truck during the day and coming home at night to farm.

Juanita cleaned houses.  She was being paid by the hour and had to rush to clean the houses in order to get home when their 3 daughters got off the bus frrom school.  Juanita was determined to be a good mother and wife.  She did everything she could to create a happy home for her children.  One scene showed how she had created a Halloween party for her kids and neighbor children with only $5.  They had been wanting a Halloween party for years and she finally decided she wanted to do it for her children.  She was quite inventive.

The hardest part for me was to see how little they had.  Having little resources, having a husband with an anger management problem due to the stress and not having hope, was hard for me to watch at times.  Then imagine that this doesn't go on for just a week, but for years.  Add to that the lack of family support from Juanita's side of the family.

The expressions on Darrel and Juanita's faces during some of the interviews speak to their plight.  They have very little or no money for food at one point.  Juanita talks about not having meat and after awhile it gets to you.  Juanita does get support from a local group that helps farmers that are struggling.  She receives some food from a local food pantry and then they do end up going on food stamps.  Juanita does it for her kids.  They need nutritious food.  She talks with a crisis counselor about not having enough money to take her daughter to the doctor for an ear infection.  Juanita also attends a clinic with other farm families and shares her story about the farm and the long road they have to get out of debt.  As the camera pans the room you see in the faces of the farmers' and their wives that if they had a chance, they would probably be telling the same story.

Juanita sees education as a future for their family so she enrolls in a community college.  Towards the end of the series you see her graduating from the community college wearing a dress she borrowed from a friend.  She looks amazing. 

Every month and year they put their hopes on future crops, future sale of farm animals but the weather was against them.  At one point Darrell makes a powerful statement, "If you have never had money problems, then you don't know what it is like." 

In my marriage we have had dry periods when money was tight, but never to the level of the Buschkoetters.  Actually, their story is not unique.  I remember the farm crisis of the early 1980's and many farmers went bankrupt and had to abandon farming.  The Buschkoetters were doing everything they could to save their family farm.

Towards the end of the series their life is getting better.  However due to what they had been through, they were cautiously optimistic. 
Why do I recommend this dvd series?  It shows a family going through a crisis.  It is honest in its telling of the entire story.  Nothing is hidden.  You need to watch it if only to see what it is like to live on a farm and see the stresses that farm families endure.

I bought the dvd series about 5 years ago when I saw it on sale.  I hadn't watched it in about a year but with my recent conviction to get back on track in my finances, I pulled it out.  I've been watching a little bit every day. Sometimes I need to see a story of a struggling family to make me appreciate what I do have.  I don't have to worry about not being able to afford a doctor's visit or not being able to afford meat, but I do need to be more cognizant of what resources I do have. I need to respect those resources and value them enough not to waste them.

The dvd series is a 3 dvd set and is available on Netflix.

June 28, 2010

Finally .... Sunshine!

We have had so many rainy days in the past month, that when I heard the forecast for this week I thought it was a mistake.  I'm not kidding when I say that it has rained practically every day and the ground is very saturated.  I have downplayed it.  It has stormed - lightning, thunder, tornadoes, straight line winds and hail over the past few weeks.  There are places in Iowa that are facing flooding.  Corn fields are looking like rice paddies. 

Today it was sunny, a breeze was blowing and the high was around 80 degrees.  It was a perfect day to finally be able to hang the clothes outside to dry. 

Now imagine my 17 year old son coming home from a student council fundraiser to see his underwear hanging on the line.  He was a little unhappy about that.  It would have been worse since 2 hours earlier the student council members were at our house painting the school mascot on our driveway.  Thank goodness I didn't hang out the clothes then.  He would have been totally embarrassed. 

After supper tonight my DH and I sat on our back deck and drank a cup of coffee.  It was nice and cool.  We sit out on the deck a lot in the evening and I enjoy sitting out there in the morning drinking a cup of coffee and watching everyone go to work.  That is so sweet. 

Today I headed to the grocery store for some milk.  When I walked into the store there was a grocery cart filled with bags of stuff (I couldn't see what it was from a distance).  There was a sign on the cart that said "50 cents."  I had to see what it was.  Hershey Kisses!!!! Yippee.  Nothing speaks to a woman like a bag of chocolate at a reduced price.  I bought 10 bags.  My DH took two to work to put in his candy dish and I took a bag to a neighbor lady who is in her last three weeks of pregnancy.  Yes, I do believe that chocolate is the best way to soothe even the final weeks of pregnancy.  The rest I will  hang on to and use in some baking and snacking.  The candy was discounted as it had an expiration date of July 2010. 

My Hershey Kiss bargain got me to thinking about the grocery stores I shop.  They are both located 1 block from each other and they are about 7 blocks from my house.  One store discounts meat while the other store discounts produce.  Perhaps I need to go to those stores more frequently so that I can take advantage of the discounted food, especially the produce.

I take a walk every day and I could include the grocery stores on my route. I could stop by one of the stores on my way back home and alternate the days I go to each store.  It would only take about 5 minutes to go in the store to check to see if they have anything reduced.  Another advantage to doing this is that it will soon start to heat up again and stopping by an air conditioned store on the way home from my walk might be kind of nice. 

It's just something I am pondering.

This weekend I did get a few great bargains at each grocery store:   90% lean ground beef for $1.69 lb., 8 oz. bags of shredded cheese for $1.00, 15 - 32 oz. bottles of Powerade for $5.00 (my DH is a runner), store brand cereals for $1.00 a box and I received a free seedless watermelon with the purchase of 4 liters of Diet Coke.  The Diet Coke was on sale for 50 cents.  But the best deal by far was the $10 grocery gift card we received from our local newspaper just for signing up to have the payment directly withdrawn from our checking account.

I am on a tight budget right now and will be for the next 6 months.  Now is when my stocked pantry and freezer will be put to good use. 

In setting the $150 challenge I realize that I have probably set it a little low, but I would rather set it low and be successful than to set it high and fail miserably.  My hope is that I can increase the challenge by $25 a month until I have found the point that I can't cut any further.  For me it is about the baby steps in making changes in my life.  Today was one of those baby steps. I have never hung the majority of my laundry outside to dry.  It was tiring as I was on my feet a lot today but I kept thinking this will save some money and my clothes will smell fresh. 

I'll be giving weekly updates on where I am on the $150 challenge.  I have 9 months of spending records to refer to along the way.  I know every penny I have spent over those 9 months so I will be able to calculate my savings and I have targeted the categories that I have been overspending.  Yuck - I hate to admit it but I got into a habit of picking up a $5 item here, spending $10 there and before you knew it, I had blown through $100.  It's very much like a food diet.  Sometimes you eat the ice cream sandwich and then you have to get back on track. 

I had a great day.  While I hung the laundry out I listened to some great music on my Mp3 player, day dreamed about ways to save money and made a list of projects we need to get done on the house.  It was one of those days that makes me happy I am homemaker. 

June 27, 2010

Frugal Tip #2 - Clean Showers

I spent the afternoon cleaning out my basement and getting my pantry organized along with my laundry room.  We had water in a portion of our basement two weeks ago and I needed to spend some time sweeping and putting some things away.  Laundry day is tomorrow and I am almost giddy at the prospect of doing the laundry in a neat laundry room. 

One thing is true and that is to live a frugal life you must be organized.  If you are disorganized, you end up going out and buying stuff that you probably already have stashed somewhere.  I found a few things that I had been wondering where I had put them.  I'm sure it's not age catching up to me - just being in a hurry and not putting things in their proper place. 

I couldn't let the weekend end without sharing another frugal tip that I have tried and liked.

I was never comfortable with the daily shower cleaners on the market.  I didn't really want to put those kind of chemicals on my shower every day and besides it is money better spent elsewhere. 

I have a daily routine for keeping my shower mold and mildew free, especially during the warm summer months.  I am the last person to take a shower in our house each day.  After I turn off the water I take a cloth that I have hanging on a hook in the shower and I wipe the shower walls and doors down.  This doesn't dry them off, as that is not my intent, instead it wipes off any soap scum or shampoo residue that may still be on the shower. 

Then when I get out of the shower I lightly mist the shower with a bleach water solution.  I take 2 to 3 tablespoons of bleach and pour it into a spray bottle and fill the bottle with water.  I do not use a recycled spray bottle as I don't want to take a risk of mixing any bleach with leftover chemicals that may still be in a recycled spray bottle. 

As to the bleach, I watch for sales and I always buy the scented bleaches to use in my shower mist.  Then I don't have that bleach smell in my bathroom.

Lastly I leave the shower door open for the rest of the morning in order to help the shower air dry.  And that is that.  Since I have been doing this, my shower stays fresh and clean inbetween the regular days I clean the bathroom. 

I have found that this same principal can work in the toilet.  Give the toilet a quick swish with the toilet brush and then mist with the bleach spray each morning. 

For the price of an old washcloth and about 2 tablespoons of bleach I have a frugal alternative to the daily shower cleaners on the market.

June 26, 2010

My Pantry and Freezer

In the next week to 10 days I will post how I keep and maintain an extensive pantry and freezer stockpile.  I started stockpiling about 18 months ago and I won't go back to shopping for groceries the way I used to.  I will post pictures and sample documents of how I keep track of everything. I also hope to discuss how stockpiling for some people can end up being hoarding. 

It is easy to go to the "darkside" in stockpiling and become a hoarder.  I learned quickly that I would never let stockpiling control me.  Instead I find the principle of stocking up on sale items and buying in bulk a unique way to save money and stretch my grocery budget.

Frugal Tip #1 - Mascara

I like to wear some makeup even if I know I am going to be home for the day.  I always purchase a good quality foundation, usually from Merle Norman.  It lasts close to 6 months and for $20 that is a good deal in my mind.  I buy name brand mascara and eye liner from Walmart.  The rest - eye shadow, blush, lip gloss/stick I purchase on the cheap from the dollar store.  I have never had a problem with allergies and I have always been satisfied. 

No matter what brand of mascara I buy, after about 2 weeks, it always seems to glop and it is hard to apply to my lashes. I am sure it is the result of air getting into the tube as I push the mascara brush down each time I use it.

I like to put on one coat of mascara and not several coats of thick mascara on my lashes.  At my age (51), less is definitely more.  This morning I tried a tip that I had read about a long time ago.  Before I got in the shower I took my tube of mascara and set it in a cup of very hot tap water and let it sit in that water until I was done with my shower and had dried my hair.  I didn't cover the tube with the hot water but only let the water come up to the lid of the mascara.

When I went to apply the mascara it was warm, melted and perfect for applying to my lashes.  It gave me a nice smooth coat, no glops and I was very happy with the result.

Now, I don't recommend keeping makeup for a long time as it is not sanitary, but I do expect mascara not to get gloppy after only 2 weeks.  Mascara usually runs around $5.00 without a coupon and most of the time I have at least a 50 cent or $1.00 coupon to use.   I am sure that I will be able to get at extra month's worth of mascara, without the glops, from doing this simple tip. 

Hmmm - maybe I should invent a mascara warmer and sell it on the internet.

June 25, 2010

Picking up the Pennies

Am I the only one that is willing to bend down to pick up a penny?  I always do because it makes me feel happy.  Yeah, I know, it doesn't take much to make my day.  Sometimes we forget that pennies are not worthless, they are valuable when accumulated.

As part of my $150 challenge, I will be trying out some frugal tips and I will post what has worked for me.  Just like reaching down to pick up a penny off the ground, I will take those pennies (frugal tips)  and watch them grow into nickles, dimes and dollars.

$150 Challenge

As I have been working around the house this week I have been doing a lot of pondering about money and specifically how to spend less and save more.  I am being drawn back to the basics of living a more frugal lifestyle.  I bought Amy D.'s first "Tightwad Gazette" book back in January 1993 when our youngest son was a newborn.  I also have her two sequel books.  A few years later I bought Jonni McCoy's book "Miserly Moms."  I have started to re-read these books to bring me back to where I need to be with living on one income. 

I have become complacent in the last few months and have been overspending.  It's time to renew my conviction to live frugally.  It's not just saving for an emergency fund that has brought me back to the reality of our life, but it's wanting to meet other goals that I have set for our family. 

Next year our youngest son will graduate from high school.  He has a profound interest in politics and government.  He plans to major in government/history in college, so our plan is to go to Washington D.C. next June for our vacation. 

My DH comes home for lunch each day.  (He works only 4 blocks from our home.) Today we were sitting on our deck and we started to talk about the trip to D.C. and how we would be able to afford the trip.  He had been thinking about it and had a plan already put together along with having money for an emergency fund.  He made this statement "it is the day to day expenses that are hurting us."   Hmm.  That had been on my mind all this week and it felt good to hear it from him.

It is time to get back on track and back on budget.  No more running to Wal-mart to pick something up and then walking around to see what else is on sale. 

I have been following the "Trenches of Mommyhood" and the challenges that she has set forth for herself.  I have also been following "Moderate Means" and how she is being challenged to see if they can afford to live on one income sometime in the future.  I'm not alone in living below our means and trying to live within a budget. I follow these blogs, and a few others, as I don't have one other person in my life that is doing what I am doing.  In fact, I have been the recipient of a few "cheap" jokes in the past year.  I always feel as if in the end I am the one who is living her dream and the rest of them are not.  

The challenge I am making for myself is to reduce our miscellaneous and grocery spending by a total of $150 a month.  It will take some planning, but I know I can I do it.  It will be the small things that will add up to the savings. 

As we sat today sharing our lunch, my DH reminded me that one year from now our only debt will be my car and our mortgage.  It will be like having a second income.  So I will continue to make laundry soap, use rags instead of paper towels and hang clothes on the line to lower expenses.  And one year from now I will be in a hotel in Washington D.C. celebrating our son's high school graduation and living my dream.

June 21, 2010

Living Frugally and Family Relationships

Thanks to Tammy's comment on my prior post on an emergency fund.  Yes, we will be buckling down to get money set aside for an emergency.  Tammy made an interesting comment re living frugally: "It can either bring your family closer together, or rip them apart."  She speaks the truth.

My DH and I discussed living on one income prior to my leaving the workplace.  We were both in agreement that we could afford to live on one income and, if I wanted to stay home, we could now afford it.  We discussed it with our DS, not seeking permission but letting him know that our lifestyle would be changing somewhat.  Honestly I don't think he knew what it was truly going to be like.  How could he know how different things would be since I have worked since he was a baby?

Our family is close and they enjoy my being at home.  (Sometimes I think that if I were home only so that the cookie jar was kept full of their favorite chocolate chip cookies, that would be good enough for them.)  The adjustment to one income is still an ongoing one.  Our biggest hurdle is when it comes to adjusting our budget in order to put more money in savings.  Spending less on groceries is the number one way I can divert money to savings. 

Last week 1 dozen of large eggs was on sale for 59 cents a dozen.  I bought 4 dozen (they expire July 9th) and I planned to have a few egg based meals over the next two weeks.  Today I made some egg salad for lunch.  My DH loves egg salad and frankly I thought my DS did too.  Well, I should say that he does like egg salad he just didn't want to have it for lunch today.  He would have rather had a frozen pizza but I'm not buying those anymore.  This is my biggest problem when it comes to living and eating frugally.  My DS would prefer frozen pizzas and entrees for lunch instead of sandwiches or leftovers.

At least twice a week I use the phrase "every meal does not have to be a gourmet eating experience" with him.  This can be a big issue during the summer months when he is home - what to have for lunch.  Egg salad costs pennies compared to a frozen pizza that has close to 750 calories, a lot of fat, salt and preservatives. 

The solution has been for me to spend more time in meal planning, particularly lunches, in order to supply my DS with frugal food that he does like.  When I have a chance I am going to make some homemade pizza crusts, pre-bake them and freeze them for lunches. 

The biggest thing I have learned about frugality is the need to plan ahead and equally important is communication with family members about finances.  It isn't necessary to go into specifics with our DS but a simple "money is a little tight right now" is sufficient.

So yes, Tammy, I very much agree with you that this lifestyle can either pull us together as a family or could cause trouble in our relationships.  Our family chooses to pull together which some times means there is egg salad for lunch. 

June 17, 2010

Emergency fund, what emergency fund.

I always knew that the first year that I would be home full time was going to be a year of "educating" myself about living on a budget, living frugally (not cheaply) and learning to get real about how much money we actually need to live on.  When you make a drastic change in your life, you know that there are going to be ups and downs, times when you may want to give up and  there is going to be a learning curve along the way.  I just looked back over this last sentence and I think I just described parenthood. 

Our emergency fund is at zero.  It makes me uncomfortable.  I guess that is the bad news.  The good news is that we can live on my husband's income and there is enough each month to set aside for savings.  We just have to start all over again.

I like to watch Suzy Orman and I do believe she gives great advice.  There is a segment on her show called "Can I afford that?"  I know that last year when I lost my job and decided to stay home permanently that she would have denied me if I would have asked her if I could afford to stay home.  First of all she would have said that we don't have an 8 month emergency fund.  Saving up 8 months of living expenses for an emergency fund is unrealistic.  I understand where Suzy is coming from in that with high unemployment it takes a lot longer to find a job if my husband were to lose his job and 8 months in savings to cover living expenses for that period of time is prudent.

I was losing my job, we had saved as much as we could, I didn't want to look for another job and I saw an opportunity to be home full time. 

So here we are starting an emergency savings fund all over again.  I'm just happy that each month we have the money to pay our expenses, pay extra on debt and put some money in savings.  I keep looking to one year from now when we will only have our mortgage and a car payment as debt. 

In the meantime I continue to educate myself as to ways to live more frugally and to enjoy my simple life.

June 13, 2010

How did you spend your Weekend?

We spent ours cleaning up water from our basement.

These pictures were taken after the water stopped coming in the basement.  There was no time to take pictures when the water was pouring in.  Yep, we had a storm among storms on Saturday morning.  In 3 hours we received 4 1/4 inches rainfall.  At one point our street looked like a river flowing past us.  It was as some would say, surreal. 

On Thursday we received an inch of rain and on Friday we received an inch of rain.  The ground is totally saturated.

Every now and then we will get some water in our basement.  By every now and then that means when we forget to clean out the gutters and even then it is a trickle of water in two spots.  The water is easily cleaned up with a mop and then of course with a gutter cleaning.  There have been times when my husband has run outside in a rainstorm to climb up on porch railings to grab a handful of leaves out of the gutter that is blocking the downspout.  You hear a whoosh and see a bunch of those helicopter thingeys and leaves coming out of the downpout with a considerable amount of water.

We now have gutter covers on the majority of our gutters and it didn't matter on Saturday morning as the rain fell hard and fast.  I went down to the basement to check on things  Two years ago I spent a considerable amount of time repointing some of the bricks in the basement and putting caulk around the floor. We haven't had a trickle of water in the basement for years. In 2008 when Iowa received a lot of rain and with the floods that resulted we didn't get a drop in the basement. 

When I turned on the light I saw a trickle of water coming in.  Then I looked over in a different area and another trickle was coming in from the corner.  Within 30 minutes there was so much water coming in that even with a wet dry vac we could hardly keep up.  Thankfully we only have an area rug that we can quickly pick up off the ground.

It took 3 of us working in 2 inch deep water to try to keep up.  We had two people at a time using wet dry vacs, emptying the water into buckets as a third person took the buckets of water and poured them down the laundry tub to drain.  It took about 15 seconds to fill a 10 gallon wet dry vac.  At one point we found where there was a small hole in the mortar where the water was coming in like a spigot.  We positioned a pan over it and then poured that into a bucket and so on. 

We worked from 8:00 in the morning until 8:30 in the evening.  The water wasn't coming in near as fast and we finally gave up for the day. 

This morning we got up and the water was dried up with only two little puddles.  While we were sipping coffee and reading the paper we heard thunder and yes, it started to rain.  I went to the basement and a little trickle of water came in but it only took a towel to dry it up. 

When we got to church this morning our Associate Pastor told us that he had water in his finished basement and the sewer was backing up.  The pond near their yard was flooded and so was the street in front of their house.  Many families had water in their basement and for some it was a first time.

Tomorrow we are supposed to have rain and there is a chance of rain on Tuesday.  I wouldn't be surprised if we start seeing animals walking 2 by 2 any day now. 

We have made a list of what we need to do.  This is going to be expensive but we need to have a custom made radius (curved) gutter to go around a curved portion of our roof.  That will help considerably to drain the water away from the house.  We need to put some different landscaping around the front of our house that will help with drainage issues.  I am going to research putting a sealant over the brick walls of the basement and I also need to go and look at all the bricks in the basement to see how the mortar is holding up. 

Of course if we have another storm like we had on Saturday it is possible that no matter what improvements we make we may still get some water in the basement.  My goal is for a trickle of water or none at all. 

I am thankful that: 1.  We were home when this happened.;  2.  There were 3 of us to work on getting the water cleaned up; 3.  The water was clean rain water; 4.  That my husband went out and purchased a second wet dry vac and it was the last large one available; 5.  My basement floor is so clean and I was able to pick things up quickly so nothing was destroyed; 6.  I was finally able to make myself take some garbage bags and clean out the junk that I had been meaning to get to; and that 7.  Compared to what happened in Arkansas with the flooding we are blessed beyond all measure.

Or yeah and 8.  We had some water "bonding" time with our teenage son.

June 11, 2010

$5.00 a gallon paint!!!!

Yep, I purchased 4 gallons of interior paint from our local Sherwin Williams store for only $5.00 a gallon.  When you get a good deal you just want to share it.  My DH didn't say much about it so I called my mom in New York knowing she would share in my enthusiasm.

How did this happen?  Well...........

Last week I received a postcard in the mail from Sherwin Williams announcing a preferred customer sale for today through Monday on all paint. As a preferred customer (I love to say that) I would receive 25% off paint.  Well, since we are painting our house again this year I decided to go pick up 4 gallons of paint.

First of all, I had been dreading picking up the paint as we had used Benjamin Moore paint on the house when we painted it 8 years ago.  The lumberyard that we purchased our paint from had discontinued selling paint.  My next choice was the Sherwin Williams store but I was wondering how on earth they were going to give me the same colors that I had selected from Benjamin Moore. 

I stopped by the Sherwin Williams store yesterday when I was doing my rounds of errands and inquired as to what they would be able to do for me.  They assured me that all I had to do was supply them with the Benjamin Moore paint color number and they could duplicate it.  Great. 

Today I went to the store and sure enough I gave them my notebook with the paint color numbers in it and they started to color four gallons of paint for me.  Two gallons were a medium yellow which is the main house color and the other two gallons were a lighter yellow used on our picket fence and also on some trim on the house.  I already had plenty of the other trim colors leftover from touch up painting we had done a few years ago. 

Here is a picture of our house that I took this winter.  As you can see it has a lot of colors on it.  A friend of mine that color schemes Victorian homes did the colors for me and these are the historic colors that were original to the house.

Okay, back to the $5.00 paint deal.

After mixing the paint and paying for it ($41.00 paint that was now $29.00 a gallon), the manager noticed that he, thankfully it was he, had given the clerk interior paint to color.  He apologized for the delay and since it is a small town store the clerk said "I'm glad it was you that made that mistake."  The manager replied "Well, it is 10:25 a.m. and the rest of the day will go smooth as I have made the mistake of the week." 

I then asked him what he was going to do with the four gallons of interior paint.  He told me that frequently people come into the store to see if they have any "mistake" paint to buy.  I asked him what he would sell it for and he told me $5.00.  I asked if I could purchase the paint and he said "sure." 

What's kind of funny about this is I have always loved those two yellow colors on the outside of the house and I have always wanted to put them in my kitchen or another room.  Now I have the paint. 

Even if it doesn't look good in my kitchen I can use it in my basement. I could also donate it to someone and they could get some use out of it.

Nothing makes my day like getting a great deal on something I can use.

June 09, 2010

Eating Out (on a Budget??)

Today I am not going to talk about how you can find this coupon and that coupon for getting a dinner at a restaurant cheaper.  I would but frankly in our small town the only occasional coupon is for Hardees or McDonalds.  We don't eat at either of those restaurants.

We rarely eat out.  Why?  I don't mind cooking and, money aside, I can fix a healthier meal at home.  Years ago if we would get a refund check in the mail from the telephone company for something in the amount of $10.00 or whatever I would say, "Let's eat out."  We ate out at least once a week and I would have eaten out more given the chance.  Not anymore.

Today was the last day of school - finally!!  We had 9 snow days to make up this year.  For a while we all thought the kids would not have a summer break at all.  This morning as I was trying to think about what I was going to have for supper tonight, I decided that I needed a break from cooking and we would eat out. 

We headed to Subway.  Our second choice would have been a local family restaurant that serves very good food.  Subway just seemed more appealing tonight.

Subway has deals going on right now on certain subs but I don't make anyone order the "special" just to save money.  In fact whenever we go out to eat we order what we want, no matter what the price is.  That is why we don't eat out very often and that is why it is more enjoyable when we do. 

It was nice to eat out, come home, walk the dog and not come back to dishes or kitchen clean up.  The cost for the three of us to eat at Subway tonight was $20.60 for two 6" subs, one 12" sub and pop and chips for the three of us.  Our bill at the family restaurant would have been around $35 for the three of us. 

Eating out may not be entirely frugal BUT you have to find in your budget a way to reward your family and do something special. If our budget was so tight that we could not afford this once (or twice) a month treat, I honestly think I would get a paper route just for some entertainment/eating out money for our family.

In the end we would much rather eat out once a month (or maybe twice) and get whatever we want versus eating out more often and only getting what is on special. 

June 08, 2010

Prices for Groceries

 A couple of weeks ago there was an article in the Sunday paper about beef prices going up.  It confirmed what I had already believed.  I have been going to the grocery store and watching the ads waiting for a good sale on 85% lean ground beef.  Up until two weeks ago I had 4 lbs. left in the freezer.  At the beginning of the year I had close to 50 lbs. in the freezer.  I knew my best bet for a good sale would be Memorial Day weekend.  After all on Memorial Day many of us gather around the grill and cook burgers, hot dogs, steaks, and chicken - or at least our husbands do.  So as had happened in years' past, I knew there would be a good sale on ground beef and I would be able stock up.

Well, that's not what happened OR maybe it did.

85% ground beef was on sale for $1.99 lb. only if you bought a 10 lb. package.  Last summer and throughout the year the average price of 85% ground beef was around $1.50 lb.  Remembering the article from the newspaper and realizing that yeah perhaps beef prices had gone up, I went ahead and bought 10 lbs.  I didn't want to commit to buying more than that in case I was wrong and ground beef would be on sale later at a better price.

So, did I get a good deal or not?

I believe I did get a good deal.  Experience has always taught me that Memorial Day, 4th of July and Labor Day were always the time that I could get ground beef at rock bottom prices.

Beef prices have gone up and it does appear that $1.99 was a good price as last week it was on sale for $2.25 lb. and this week's ad shows 85% ground beef on sale for $2.43 lb. I now know that in the next few weeks that if ground beef goes on sale for $1.99 lb., I will then stock up. 

I have a funny way of tracking food prices as to if they going up, down or remaining the same.  I keep track of the prices of everything I buy.  I enter these prices into an excel spreadsheet each week. It is the easiest way for me to track grocery prices.  However it is the tracking of the prices of milk, eggs, white bread, apples, chicken hind quarters, boneless chicken breasts, corn flakes and ground beef that helps me understand how overall food prices are.  These are basic groceries and if I see any of these items going up, I know that everything else will be going up - gasoline, utilities, clothing and so on.  Which also leads me to be concerned that unemployment will increase or at the very least remain the same and not go down. 

So what does this mean to me?  Information is power.  The more information, the better I feel about the choices I make.  Knowing the best price of an item in that current economy gives me the knowledge of when I need to stock up on a certain item.  If food prices are going up, I must compensate in other areas of our budget to balance things out. 

If $1.99 is the best sales price for 85% ground beef for the summer of 2010, then I could have been waiting a long time for $1.50 a lb. which would probably never happen and I would be missing out on getting the best deal for ground beef right now.

If food prices are going up and continue to rise it also means that those of us who "have" must help those that "have not."  If you are able, give to a food pantry and help those out that "have not" at this time.

June 04, 2010

All is Well

Lately I have been saying to myself more and more "all is well."  Right now at this point in my life I am content.  It's weird that I am finding myself more and more a happier person which tells you something.  Looking back over the past few years I was miserable as I never had the time to do fun stuff.  I was always working, doing housework and rarely did I have time for myself.  I was okay.

I hate to admit it but I was really not a happy person.  Yes, I loved and still love my family immensely but work was in the way of my being a happy person.  For years I would put everything on "the back burner" and that included myself. 

My oldest son and his wife moved back to our town 2 weeks ago and for the first time in a long time I have my immediate family living near me.  It is wonderful.  They adopted a dog and now their dog comes to our house to hang out with our dog.  Our youngest son goes to visit them at their place and they come to our place for a meal and to visit.  I love spending time with my daughter in law.  It is nice to have another woman's point of view.

Last night my husband, sons and daughter in law all played a couple of games on our church softball team.  I sat in the bleachers for the first game with my "grand" dog and enjoyed the moment. 

School is out finally next week.  We had 9 snow days this year so the school year was extended.  No more homework help or worrying about math tests. 

Being surrounded by family and having time to do the things I want to do is happiness to me.  They say life is too short and I would agree with that.  In looking back over the past 30 years of my life I would have been happier if I would have never gone to work in the first place.  I had a wonderful career that I enjoyed but it took up all my time.  Now I am doing the things that I have always wanted to do but never had the time. 

Yes, "all is well."