December 29, 2011

New Dishes from Goodwill

I had never shopped at a Goodwill store until this fall.  I went in to Goodwill looking for a jean jacket and found one for a couple of dollars.  I was sold on Goodwill.  Two weeks ago I shopped at Goodwill and found the perfect winter jacket for $5.00.  It was exactly what I was looking for and again, I was happy with the price I paid and the quality of the jacket. 

Goodwill had become the place I shopped first when a clothing need came up.  Two weeks ago I wandered into Goodwill to see what kitchen items they had for sale. 

I have always wanted some Fiesta Ware dishes, but never wanted to pay the price for a set of these dishes.  I had priced them and they were just out of my price range.  When I was at Goodwill looking for some kitchen stuff, I spied a Fiesta Ware knock off.  I really wanted them and the price was only $9.99 for the 8 place settings. 

Guess what I did?  I walked out of the store and decided to think about it.  I broke a cardinal rule as a shopper of Goodwill. If you see something you like, you stick it in the cart right away.  If you don't, there is a good chance it will be gone when you go back to buy it.

Well, I wanted to think about it for a couple of days and I was prepared for it being sold to someone else before I could buy it.  Yes, it was hard, but I really wanted to think about. 

When I returned a couple of days later, they were still there.  Why did I want to take some time to think about it?  Because I really wanted to think over if I could use these dishes to compliment what I already had.  Yes, for some people $10 is a drop in the hat, but I have learned that I could go hog wild at Goodwill and spend a lot of money on a bunch of stuff just because everything is priced at a low bargain price.

Here are the dishes: 

They coordinate with my corelle dishes:

And they work well with my grandmother's Franciscan Ware that we use only at Christmas and Easter: 

While I was at Goodwill I found two plates that I really liked for $1.00 each.  I liked the colors on the plate and find that these two plates work well with the dishes too.

And I also found some mugs that I could mix and match for only 50 cents:

And last, I found these old kitchen pans that I will use in my kitchen to hold things and perhaps a few to use as planters.

Buddy likes to get in the pictures I take. 

So for around $17.00 I was able to get all of the above at Goodwill and I am absolutely thrilled to have dishes to mix and match and play around with. 

I had so much fun doing this.  What made it fun?  Finding the mix and match items, being patient and putting off any purchases for a few days while I thought about it, the price and the satisfaction of finding a cheaper version of something that I have always wanted.

I'm tickled pink (or should I say gold).  AND I used my Christmas money to pay for it. 

You know what else?  I could have boxed these dishes up and given them as a gift which means Goodwill will be one of my first stops for gift giving from now on.

December 27, 2011

Christmas is Over - Time to get back to Normal

In the midst of the Christmas unwrapping mess.
We had an enjoyable Christmas celebration and it is time to try to get back to normal - which means I need to be here at this blog posting.  Now when I say I "need", that means that I need to be here because I enjoy it. 

For Christmas I received some nice gifts from my family such as a faux fur scarf that easily wraps around my neck, a little beaded bag to hold my cell phone and a couple of Amazon gift cards.

I have been on Amazon trying to decide what I would buy with these gift cards.  There isn't a need to hurry on this but it is kind of fun to have some gift cards "to burn."  

I have been looking at some books on how to deconstruct clothing and such.  I'm not making any big decisions as of yet, but I am totally into taking jeans, as an example, and making them into tote bags, skirts or whatever.  Also I want to spend more time sewing and I could use a good sewing book. 

2012 is the year to finish painting and decorating the downstairs of our house.  This means the diningroom (I'm thinking of a rust color), the kitchen, the hallway, my son's bedroom and the guest bedroom which is the bedroom that our college girls will be living in. 

I want to sew all of the decor for these rooms and do it on a budget.  So I need ideas and have found that it is worth purchasing a good idea book, used of course.  I have about 6 on my wish list on Amazon and I will set them aside to look at in another week and make my choice. 

Retro Fabric I purchased - 2 yards only available
I want to use a 1960's retro decor for the girls' room.  They like that idea too.  So I have been on the hunt for 60's retro things.  I had a floor lamp given to me about 3 weeks ago and it is absolutely perfect.  I have found retro 60's fabric at Wal-mart that can be used for curtains and pillows and other items.  See the photo above.  I also need to come up with quilts or bedspreads and the budget is a low $100.  I set the budget as I feel it will be like a game or challenge to see what I can come up with. 

I have been scouring stores for clearance items and I have been to Goodwill.  I need bedding for the bunk beds and I am hoping that if I cannot find identical bedding that at least we can find complimentary bedding.  Or I can find a bedspread that can be remade into something else for the room. 

Lastly I have lost 3 lbs. since the beginning of the month which totally makes me smile.  Yes, smile.  I made healthy food choices through the Christmas weekend and I allowed myself some treats - in moderation. 

December 18, 2011

A gift I am giving

I found a perfect gift to give this year.  After an earlier post about the cost of gift giving and such, I am happy to post about a gift I am giving and it only cost $15.  This is one of those gifts that fit the budget and will also be a gift that the recipient will really enjoy and it is very useful.

One of the ladies at our church had a Janet basket and she carried everything in it she needed for church.  She had her Bible, her lessons for the Sunday School class she taught and many other items stored in it.  I really liked it. 

So I went to good ole Amazon and found one.  Here is what a Janet Basket looks like:

These baskets come in all sorts of pretty designs.  There are two sizes:  large and small.  I purchased the small Janet basket on Amazon about 1 month ago for $15 and at the time the vendor was offering free shipping.  The dimensions are 9 inches by 16 inches and it is about 10 inches in depth.  The frame is aluminum and the fabric is a very sturdy canvas.

Who will receive this gift?  My mother in law.  I know that this will be a gift that she will enjoy.  It can be used on Sundays to carry her Bible and other items to church or she can put her work related items in it and use it in her car.  It could double as a perfect craft carrier or could be used to take to the grocery store for light shopping trips.  There is a zipper pouch on the outside which is quite handy and the entire basket folds flat. 

So, I got a bargain gift that I know my mother-in-law will really like.  Now, if only I could receive the same thing. 

Losing weight before the New Year Begins

I gained 10 lbs. since January from being on Paxil.   Back in January I had some issues with working out at home, namely I was lonely and it had begun to get boring.  I joined Curves as I needed an alternative that was affordable.  By the end of February I had lost about 2 lbs. and had toned up and lost inches.  The best day was when I put on a pair of capris and they fit with a little snuggness. I was on my way. 

Unfortunately it was about that time that I started to feel the side  effects of Paxil - weight gain.  So the lbs. came on at about 1 lb. per month until I am where I am today - 151 lbs.  My goal is to get down to 135 lbs. 

I find it hard to lose weight on my own.  I need help and accountability.  I also want to prepare my own food as I know what I  like and what works for me.  

I now know what most women realize deep down, but we really don't want to face.  We get to a certain age and the weight starts to creep on and we can't eat like we did when we were in our 20's.  It's hard to face this but we can eat many of the foods we love, just in moderation and then we need to get our "back sides" moving and exercise. 

I followed Weight Watchers when I needed to lose the baby weight some 17 years ago and it worked for me.  Everyone has to find a plan that works for them, mine is Weight Watchers. 

Soo -- although it is not frugal, I have joined Weight Watchers. Not frugal from the standpoint that I am now paying $18.95 per month for their on-line tools and accountability. Add that to my Curves Membership and I am paying $55 a month for fitness.

If I could not afford this, I would work out at home, walk and count calories. It would be more of a struggle for me, but I could do it. 

I'm really hoping that now that I am off Paxil that the drug will be out of my system by the end of January and I will see the "fruits of my labor" - 5 servings a day that is.

December 13, 2011

Paxil free

I have successfully weaned myself off of Paxil.  It took me around 2 months to get the job done and it was a struggle.  I still have some of the side effects of withdrawal but each day they diminish.  I went on Paxil 1 year ago when I was having trouble with OCD that got completely out of control when I was having some issues with depression. 

Why did I feel it was time go off the drug?  I was tired of the side effects of being on Paxil, namely being sleepy no matter how much sleep I got at night and the weight gain.   It took me about 4 months to make the decision to wean off of Paxil as I wanted to make sure that the depression did not return.  I also discussed this possibility with my doctor. 

Anti-depressants have their place and for me Paxil got me through a very tough spot last year.  Now I have a lot of activities going on in my life that keep me happily busy and I get out of the house more than I used to. 

If you're taking an anti-depressant and want to go off, do not do this until you talk with your doctor and get his/her input.  My doctor asked me a lot of questions and started a dialogue with me to make sure I wasn't one of those "I feel better now, so I'm going to quit taking my medication."  In my case, he agreed that if I was ready, then I could start to wean myself off.  However, he also talked with me about what I would feel in the way of side effects and that if the symptoms of OCD or depression started to return, I was to call him immediately. 

Life is good.

December 08, 2011


I got out of the habit of blogging while I was sick, but I am back at it.  The past week I have been trying to get the furnishings out of our den in order to transform it back into a bedroom for the college girls that are coming to live with us.  The problem is what to do with all of that stuff.  Fortunately our son and his wife have a large basement and they have offered to take the sofa sleeper if it doesn’t fit in the room with the bunk beds.  We have left it up to the girls. 

The den used to be our oldest son’s bedroom.  After he got married we started to make it into our den.  In that room is a small sofa sleeper, t.v. and stand, 2 file cabinets, 4 DVD storage shelves and our dog, Buddy’s, dog kennel.  Now the majority of that stuff is being moved to our upstairs, which means I am again moving stuff around and making room for everything.

One of my readers, Dani, made a comment recently that really got me thinking about how I have the majority of my work spaces spread out throughout the house.  I had a desk set up in a small room that also houses most of our book shelves, a sewing area in an alcove, a crafting area in another alcove and an area that has junk stuff in it that I need to sort through.   This reader was correct in that having things spread out isn’t very efficient and it just doesn’t make much sense.  But frankly I couldn't see how it could work any differently, until I actually started rearranging things.

I am working to stream line these areas.  I don’t like having things spread out, but sometimes you have to be forced to step back and take a new look at the spaces in your house. 

It is my goal to have everything sorted through and in good shape by next Friday.  I’m around 1/3 there and I am seeing results in how my home is looking which is keeping me motivated. 

I have two areas in my life that I struggle with:  procrastination and cleaning/decluttering.  These traits do not work well with someone pursuing a frugal lifestyle.  In fact, these traits work against a frugal lifestyle.  How?  I find myself struggling to find things which can lead to frustration which can lead to spending money on an item I already have and just can’t find.   Putting tasks off or procrastinating leads to frustration by not getting things done in a timely manner.  Laundry is an example and planning for meals.  Yes, these are the things that I fight with every day of my life. 

But this week I have seen the fruits of my labors.  I have been taking all of those items from the den and moving them upstairs – not all at once, but a little bit at a time.  It is getting done and  I am excited to see the decluttering and rearranging/organizing finally getting done.

I will post pictures when I am finished. 

December 01, 2011

Big News?? I think so . . .

but you may disagree.

Here is my big news (maybe you will be disappointed to find out that I am not pregnant at age 52). 

What has paying off bills and getting out of debt done for us?  We are able to help others in a big way. 

We have come to know some college students that attend the local university.  They have been attending our church and have been in our home for what I call "dinner, movie and laundry night."  Yes, they do their laundry, eat with us and we watch a movie together.  One week we watched the movie Jaws and I had forgotten what a great movie that was. 

In order to save money and to ease the financial stress of paying for college, we offered two of the girls the opportunity to come and live with us beginning in January.  They have accepted.

Our den, which used to be our oldest son's bedroom, is being transformed into a "dorm" room for them.  The first thing I had to do was find bunk beds.  I checked Craigslist, sent an e-mail out to people in our church, looked on free-cycle and checked the ads in the newspaper.

Since I didn't have another choice, I checked the furniture store and they had a great sale.  I was able to buy a sturdy set of wood bunk beds along with 2 nice mattresses.  That is all we need for that room.  The girls have a small dresser and a desk.  There is a t.v. in that room and I have an old livingroom comfy chair I will put in that room. 

Why are we doing this?  Because it is the right thing to do.  I want these girls to finish college and I want them to finish college without worrying about finances.  

I ran out of money when I was in my Junior year of college and I never have finished my Bachelor's degree.  If someone would have offered to do this for me, I would have my B.A. today.

There is a third girl who is a freshman and she cannot live off campus during her freshman year.  We have offered her a way of saving money by providing her meals.  She can eat with us and/or we can prepare meals with her help on a weekend and she can pick them up. 

When you cut back and pay off your bills, you are able to put money in savings and you are also free to be able to help others.   What we are doing may not be comfortable for everyone to do.  It is for us. 

My father-in-law is a minister and my husband grew up in a home where people were always welcome.  I grew up in a home that was open and welcoming to people.  My parents took in girls that had aged out of the "children's home" at age 18.  My parents gave them a home while they went to business college or nursing school. 

So our families have a history of helping others.  It was modeled to us.  Some people would not be comfortable with taking in college students into their home.  We prayed about it and we feel that this is why we are here at this time and in this financial situation so that we can help others. 

Please don't read this and think I am bragging.  I am not and I hope that none of you feel that way. 

What does this mean now?  I have 2 (or possibly) 3 more mouths to feed.  The water bill will be higher too.  We have paid off bills and we have more wiggle room in our budget. 

Today as I grocery shopped I spent a lot more money than I normally do as I had some really great coupons for sale items.  I was able to pick up Oatmeal for $1.99 for a 42 oz. canister; flour for 88 cents for a 5 lb. bag, butter for $1.88 lb., polish sausage for only 98 cents for a 12 oz. package (great in my homemade potato soup), Tide powder (22 load size) for only $3.00.  I will mix this powdered Tide with my homemade powdered laundry soap to extend the Tide.  I also bought Era liquid laundry soup (32 load size) for only $2.00.  I was able to get a good quality shampoo and conditioner for 88 cents a bottle.   

There were more great deals and I stocked up.  I'm not sure how much our food bill will increase and it will take several weeks for me to come up with a normal food budget beginning in January.  One thing I do know and that is the past two years have prepared me for this.  I know how to save money, to extend the use of many household items and how to prepare delicious, frugal meals.  I can do this.

I'm not writing this post to brag.  Not everyone is up to this type of situation.  College students are struggling in our community and this is our way of helping out a few of them.  Perhaps you can help by contributing to a food drive specifically for college students.  Maybe you can even take the lead and start one on your own.  Some students can't afford to even buy clothes at thrift stores as money is so tight.  What about a clothing drive?

I hope you aren't disappointed with my big news.  But I think being pregnant at 52 would go beyond big news and be more big shock and awe!!!

Feeling so much better

I am feeling so much better today.  I haven't been that sick for a very, very long time.  When I was a child I would get sinus infections, sore throats and tonsilitis all the time.  When I was 15 years old I had my tonsils and adenoids removed and after that I would get an occasional cold.

This was different.  I was flat on my back sick for several days.  Thank goodness for antibiotics. 

I do have some big news.  I will tell you all about it in my next post which I promise will be later today as I don't want to make you wait long.  I will give you a hint.  Frugality has made it possible for my family to help others out in a big way.

November 26, 2011

Sick and won't be posting for a few days

I have been fighting a sinus infection for several days and went on some strong antibiotics yesterday.  The side effects are awful and I won't be posting for a few days. 

Should be back to posting, I hope by Tuesday, the 28th.

November 21, 2011

Christmas must wait -- it's Thanksgiving time

Each year the Christmas decorations go up sooner and sooner.  I was buying Halloween candy the day after Halloween when I realized that the music being played in the store was Christmas music.  I walked down the aisles and they had started to discount the Thanksgiving items.  I bought the candy and left the store a little upset.

Thanksgiving becomes more and more downplayed and diminished as the years go by.  It's kind of sad.  I have a lot of memories as a child when we would go visit relatives for Thanksgiving.  There would be a house full of people and many times we would up eating on chairs set up with t.v. trays nearby.  I thought that was really fun since my mom would never let us do this.  The food was abundant and very, very good. 

Time was spent watching the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade and of course, football.  My uncles would go deer hunting during the day and come home in the evening cold and happy at their good fortune of getting a deer or two. 

Thanksgiving was a treasured holiday that seems to have become another day for Christmas shopping -- not in my home.  There was a time when you wouldn't even see a Christmas decoration going up until the first week in December.  In our town I have seen Christmas decorations not only going up before Thanksgiving, but being turned on. 

We cherish Thanksgiving and love the turkey, pumpkin pie, stuffing and cranberry sauce.  We enjoy not doing anything except being with each other. 

As to the cost of the Thanksgiving meal, it has reportedly gone up but I feel it is still a good value.  I paid 49 cents a lb. for the turkey, 88 cents for a 5 lb. bag of potatoes, 38 cents lb. for yams, 2 bags of Pepperidge Farm stuffing for 50 cents each -- on clearance, 67 cents for canned pumpkin, 69 cents for frozen vegetables, 99 cents for Cool Whip, $1.28 for a bag of cranberries.  I have been buying the ingredients as they want on sale over the past few weeks.  Yes, in our area this meal is a good value and we look forward to sharing it with others.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving and enjoy your friends and family. 

November 16, 2011

Living on $250 Food Assistance

One of my followers sent me an e-mail a few weeks ago.  I think about this person daily and pray for her situation.  She is out of work due to an injury - she is in a lot of pain.  This lady supports 3 teenagers and they receive $250 per month in food assistance.    She has become an Aldi shopper.

Here is what I would like to do over the next day or so, let's come up with some menus and recipes to help this lady stretch that $250 to the maximum (she is doing this).  I just think it would be nice if we were supporting her and others like her with some new recipes that they can use and benefit from. 

Feeding teenagers on a frugal budget is definitely a challenge.  Fortunately her children are very supportive of her and her situation.  They are real troopers. 

November 12, 2011

Two Freezers????

Yes, that is what my husband said when I told him I wanted another freezer.  His response was that maybe if I used up what was in the other freezer I would have enough room and wouldn't need another freezer.

Men don't get it.

Right now we have a large upright freezer.  I think it is about 15 cubit feet.  It is full of meat, cheese and frozen veggies.  I would like a separate, small chest freezer for casseroles and such that I make ahead of time and also for day old bread that I get on sale.

First of all I'm not sure that I could plug in another freezer in the same outlet in our basement.  I should be able to, but I'm not sure and would have to have an electrician check this out for me.  

Second of all, he does have a point about using up what is in the first freezer to make room for more stuff.  However, the reason that this freezer is full is because I came across an in store deal on ground beef for only 80 cents a lb. and I bought as much as I could buy at the time. This is an example of how I shop for meat.  When I come across deals such as chicken hindquarters for only 39 cents a lb., turkey for 49 cents a lb., boneless pork loin for only $1.59 a lb. I buy a lot.  These prices don't come around very often and with prices increasing, I have to be able to buy in bulk when there is an exceptional deal. 

The bottom rack of my freezer is jammed with frozen vegetables that were on sale one week for only 69 cents for a 1 lb. bag. 

You may be wondering about the freezer above my fridge.  Yes, it is packed with day to day freezer items such as lunch meat, bread, ice cream and items I use for pizza. 

I am probably preaching to the choir here but I know that I would make good use of a second freezer and in no uncertain terms there is no way I would buy a third.  I believe wholeheartedly that our economy will never be the same again and that we need to go back to living like our grandparents - simply and frugally.  Grandma had a garden and canned and she helped to butcher and process her own meat.   I have the advantage of grocery stores that offer great deals that I can buy in bulk and freeze.

A small second freezer makes sense.  Convincing my husband of this will take a few months of hard work. 

How many freezers do you have?

November 11, 2011

Finding a Space

I have struggled for the past two years to come up with one spot in my house that I can call my own.  I wanted one room to be my office, sewing area, couponing, scrapbooking and craft area.  However taking over one room of the house isn't practical for our family. 

The den was going to be part office/part den, but my son uses that room to study.  He doesn't want me in there while he is studying and frankly, I can't work while he is in the room studying.  I like to listen to dvd's while I am working and he needs quiet. 

I decided that studying and getting good grades trumped my need to have an "office" in that room.   Before going further I need to explain what I mean by an office.  I need a spot where I can have a table and chair for when I need to type on my laptop and do my volunteer work, blog and a place where I can put things such as notes, papers and things for me to look over at a later date.

We have a tiny bedroom next to ours in the upstairs of our house.  And when I say tiny, I mean tiny.  We have lined the walls with bookshelves and technically it is more like a library than anything else.  Tonight I was able to rearrange book shelves so that I freed up enough space for a small desk (actually a rectangular shaped card table) and a file cabinet.  This is perfect for my needs.

Outside of this room is an alcove area where I have my sewing table with my sewing machine on it next to a file cabinet that contains notions and sewing supplies.  I also have plastic drawers that contain my fabric, patterns and my cross stitch supplies.  This area is perfect as a separate sewing space.

Around the corner from this is our bedroom and it contains another small alcove area.  Okay - perhaps I need to define alcove area - this is the area where the peaks meet in the gabled ceilings.  The ceilings are about 5 foot high in the center and then slope to a point where these areas have minimal use. 

In this area in our bedroom we have our old round diningroom table and I am making it my scrapbook, craft and couponing area.  Now when I want to leave my craft supplies or coupons out on a table, I can.  I don't have to move them when I need to do "office" type work.  I am hoping that over the next few days I can get all of my work areas pulled together. 

I am sooo tired of being disorganized and the frustration that comes with that.  It will be good to have a couple of areas where I can do my work and leave it undisturbed as needed.

Do you have any type of space in your home to call your own?  If not, seek a space.  I found mine in little places around my house.

November 07, 2011

Breakfast Casseroles - Another frugal meal

In our house we always seem to have a few slices of bread (usually the heels) left in a bread bag that end up drying out and no one wants to use them in a sandwich.  Now I use unwanted pieces of bread as seasoned bread crumbs, croutons and such, but my favorite thing to do with them is to use them in a breakfast casserole or Strata as some people call it.

I keep the ends of bread in a bag in the freezer and then when I have enough, it's time to make a breakfast casserole. 

Here is my original recipe that I got out of a church cookbook some 30 years ago. 

Ham and Cheese Breakfast Casserole

12 slices bread, cubed
8 oz. shredded cheddar cheese
1 lb. cubed ham
4 eggs
2 cups milk
1 stick margarine, melted
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon prepared mustard

Grease a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Place 2/3 thirds of the bread cubes on the bottom of the pan.  Arrange the cheese and the ham over the top.  Pour the melted margarine over the remaining bread cubes.  Sprinkle over the top of the casserole.  Leave in refrigerator overnight.  Bake at 325 degrees for 1 hour.

Here is how I have made this casserole more versatile:

I reduce the amount of melted margarine to 1/4 cup and I also don't use near as much meat.  It's not necessary.

If I have no meat or cheese but a lot of bread, I make it into a French toast casserole.  Just sprinkle a bit of nutmeg and about 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon into the egg batter.  Then sprinkle the top of the buttered cubes with cinnamon and sugar.  Bake as usual.  Serve with syrup.

I substitute sausage, bacon, even chicken for the ham.  I have used swiss cheese with the bacon, co-jack cheese, muenster and so on.  Basically I take any cheese I have on hand and use it.  Also, I tend to take the bits of cheese I may have left from another recipe and freeze it for this use.   

I love quiche because you can use up bits and pieces of meat and cheese but with this breakfast casserole you can also use up one more item and that is bread.

The only problem you may have is that when you start to tweak the recipe you may want to keep track of what you put in, because if it turns out really, really good you're family will want you to repeat it. 

November 02, 2011

What's for Dinner Tonight? Fried Rice

I love fried rice and so does my family.  It is a great way to use up a small amount of leftover meat that isn't enough for another meal. 

My recipe is one of those this and that kind of recipes.  The basic recipe is as follows:

1 small onion chopped, about 1/4 cup
2 cups cooked rice
2 tablespoons soy sauce
3 eggs beaten

Cook and stir the onion in a little oil until the onion is tender, about 3 minutes.  Stir in the cooked rice and soy sauce.  Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, 5 to 7 minutes.  Stir in eggs; cook and stir until eggs are done, 4 to 5 minutes longer.

Okay, this is the basic recipe.  I have in my freezer about 1/2 cup of frozen peas and in my fridge I have a carrot that is getting a little limp.  I also have a piece of grilled chicken this about 1/2 size of my palm and about 2 slices of a pork loin roast from last night's meal. 

I will add the peas and carrot along with sliced pieces of the chicken and pork to the rice concoction.  You can of course use leftover rice - be it brown or white - both work well. 

Another alternative would be to make soup or a casserole.  Just be careful that whatever you make from leftovers serves one additional meal and that you don't end up making a meal from leftovers that becomes another leftover meal, unless you need to do this.  Plan for those leftovers but don't go overboard. 

November 01, 2011

Time for a Talk about Christmas

I think I struck a nerve with some readers about my article on Christmas gift giving.  It is November 1st so perhaps it is time to bring family members together and have a discussion. 

We are in year 3 of a global financial crisis and in our community we are experiencing new layoffs.   Just when you think it is going to get better, it doesn't. 

It's time to sit down and talk to your families about Christmas.  This could be the year that we end the madness and start to really feel the Christmas spirit.  If you were to start with spending half of the amount you normally spend and give the other half to charity (if you can afford it), that would be a great start.  I remember one year I received a note saying that a certain amount of money was given in my name to Heifer International.  I honestly thought that was pretty cool. 

So here's the challenge for this month - schedule a time to talk with family members about their expectations of Christmas and about how your family can get in the mindset of true giving this year at Christmas and each year hereafter. 

October 31, 2011

Thinking Ahead to Stressful Gift Buying

I’ve been thinking about Christmas this week.  I always feel that once Halloween gets here, Thanksgiving flies by and then it is Christmas.  I can’t really explain it, but I don’t feel like doing Christmas.  I’m just not in the mood.  I could be in the mood come February though.  I am so pathetic.

Do you know what causes stress for me at Christmas time?  It’s not the cooking, baking, cleaning or decorating – it’s the gift buying.  I am at a loss as to what to get people for Christmas.   Homemade gifts aren’t appreciated by many people on my gift list.  I get so frustrated.  It’s the same thing every year. 

What do you buy extended family that have everything they could possibly want yet seem to demand a gift that is personalized to them and very thoughtful?    Some years I find the perfect gift but most of the time, I am at a total loss.  Does anyone else have this problem? 

Then I have to send my mother a gift (notice I said “have to”) when she hasn’t sent me or my husband a gift in probably 20 years.  One year she even called me to say that we had forgotten to renew her magazine subscription to a magazine that costs close to $90 per year.  We had decided that we couldn’t afford it and had told her so, but a couple of weeks after Christmas she called to say that she hadn’t received her magazine and we must have forgotten.  It was her way of manipulating us into caving and giving into her.   We didn’t.  We had given her something else. 

Honestly I just want it to stop.  I just want to give gifts to my husband and my children and daughter-in-law.  The rest of the family I would love to give a simple gift, a homemade gift would be wonderful.  But if I did, there would be a great deal of disappointment when the gift was opened and that prevents me from doing it. 

Perhaps I should just start making gifts and that could become my "tradition."  It is too late to make afghans or lengthy projects for this year, but I think I will begin this in 2012.  No, I definitely will do this.  There are many things I can sew or crochet that would make nice gifts and by planning ahead I could buy supplies when they are on sale. 

I've been wanting to make my own soap and my own beauty products such as lip balm.  Now I think I have my first goal for 2012 -- learn to make these items to give away as gifts.  I like it. 

I'm curious, if you have made your own gifts, what have you made?

October 28, 2011

Helping College Students

Yesterday I went through our “coat” closet and looked at all of the sweatshirts and fleece jackets that we owned. I pulled out all of the hooded sweatshirts and jackets that I felt we no longer wore. I left them out on our dining room table so that my husband and son could look them over and make the final decision.

Today I took those items to our local United Way office to donate. These items didn’t fit into their “winter coat drive” needs but they had a “free” table set up for anyone to come and look over and take what they needed. So I was also able to donate a large slightly used backpack along with three zippered school notebooks that had little wear at all.

The table didn’t have a lot of items on it and I hope that someone will walk into the United Way office and will find a “treasure” on that table and take it home.

I appreciate Goodwill and other thrift stores in town, but what happens when you basically have no money for even these stores? We are doing fine financially now and by that I mean that that because of living frugally and getting debt paid down, we are able to have some wiggle room in our monthly budget. I can honestly say that wiggle room is good.

Even though there have been times in our marriage when we have had very, very little money to live on, I was always able to come up with a couple of dollars to take to Goodwill or a garage sale to find a much needed clothing item. However I am aware that this is not the case for a lot of people, namely college students.

We have a college located in our community and I have become friends with a few of the students. College is expensive and when you can only get a 5 to 9 hour a week work study job, you end up living on very, very little money. When I was in college I had very little “spending” money. Spending money was for toiletries, laundry and any other possible necessities. I got $10 a week and that was horrendous to try to live on even back in 1979.

To save money I would wash my clothes and hang them up to dry. Sometimes I would handwash all my clothes and wring them out and hang them to dry around my dorm room. I had to plan ahead as it took longer to dry. Books were always purchased used. I don't think I bought hardly any clothes when I was in college. Everything had to last and when it came to toiletries, I had to make sure I got as much as I could from the shampoo and deoderant I bought. I remember laying awake and worrying about where I would get the money to pay for tuition and my living expenses.

I remember one time when my shoes were wearing through so much that my feet got wet walking through the rain or snow. I borrowed money from my roommate to go to K-mart to buy some cheap shoes and then I paid her back as I got some money. It’s a horrible feeling to go to college away from home and spend money on tuition and such, try to study so you get good grades to keep up your scholarship and then to also have to worry about money for basic necessities.

It is also a lonely feeling.

That is why I am drawn to helping college students. I was there one time and I want to pay it forward to help others. I can’t take away all of their money problems and frankly, we all need to go through the hard times in order to understand the good times. However, I can take the edge off.

So, if you know of a college student, do what you can to help them out even if it is simply a package of homemade cookies sent to them in the mail. The emotional support is just as important as a monetary gift.

October 27, 2011

Super Easy Baked Cavatelli

I help with cooking the youth group meals each week and I wanted to share with you this simple and easy recipe for baked cavatelli.  This goes over so well with the youth group.  They really love it and I love making it because it is so easy.

Baked Cavatelli

2 cups UNCOOKED rotini pasta
1 lb. ground beef, browned and drained
1 - 16 oz. can diced tomatoes
1 jar spaghetti sauce
Italian Seasoning
1 - 8 oz. bag shredded mozzarella
Pepperoni pieces (optional)

Mix the UNCOOKED rotini pasta, ground beef, tomatoes and spaghetti sauce.  Add about 1/2 cup water.  Add pepperoni pieces if desired.  Pour into a 9 x 13 inch pan.  Sprinkle with italian seasoning.  Cover tightly with foil and bake at 350 degrees for 1 1/4 hours.  Top with the cheese and bake another 15 minutes until cheese is melted and pasta is tender. 

I am making this on Sunday for our youth group and I will be donating the food from my pantry and freezer.  I need to put together 6 pans and here is what I am calculating this will cost per pan.

1 lb. Boxes of rotini pasta purchased @ 69 cents
Jars of spaghetti sauce @ 75 cents
Mozzarella cheese @ $1.00
Diced tomatoes @ 33 cents
1 lb. Hamburger purchased @ 80 cents (BIG sale in February of this year)

Add this up and you can see how little each pan will cost.  This is why I shop sales and use coupons, not only for myself but so that I can also save our church money. 

I will add to this day old loaves of italian bread purchased for around 90 cents each and we will have apple slices (apples already donated by someone) and ice cream (donated also).  The only thing the church will need to purchase will be 2 gallons of milk and the bread.  This will serve around 40 people. 

So, again, when you shop sales and get great deals, think about how you can donate some of those items perhaps to your church for meals or to a food pantry or other charity. 

October 26, 2011

I'm making this up as I go.

I'm making this up as I go.
I love the Indiana Jones movies and this is my favorite phrase from the first movie.  I’ve been using that phrase a lot lately as I am volunteering part-time at my church. 

Last July I felt it was time that I stepped up to the plate so to speak and give more time in service to my church.  I knew that this meant that I needed to make sure wherever I served, it was in an area that I was gifted in and that I enjoyed.  That does not mean that I don’t also do the tasks at church that are just plain needed and whether gifted or not, helping with cleaning up after a meal is just as important as planning an event.

I’m still trying to find the balance between my volunteer work and my responsibilities at home.   The past two weeks have been quite busy – mostly with getting our new dog Buddy used to his new home.  He’s thriving and we love him.  And my house has gotten messy AND horror of horrors – I have not done a good job of making up a grocery list.  Thankfully I still have quite a stocked pantry and freezer so I only need the basics.  It’s just that I keep going back to the store for the basics.  Why do I always forget the simple things like milk? 

Well I now keep that ever present piece of paper on the front of the refrigerator for my list.  Actually I have two.  One is for things we need from the store and one is for the things I think of that need done.  At least if both are attached to the fridge I won’t lose them.  Then I can take the to do list and put it in my planner.  I am always remembering things throughout the day and it is easier to quickly write them down on a piece of paper and then to sort those tasks out in the evening and put them in my planner.   

I love being busy doing things I love to do and giving my time to my church is something I love to do.  However, I love my home and domestic life just as much so it is important to find the balance between the two.  I am determined to keep the balance and most importantly to be careful and not let busyness get in the way of overspending on my budget.

What do you do to keep everything on track when life gets busy?

October 21, 2011

Church Mom's Group

Yesterday I spoke at a mom's group called MomShine about living on one income and frugality.  As I gazed over the young moms that were there it took me back to the time when I was mom to a young son.  You never forget what it feels like to hold your baby for the first time, to take him home and then realize you know "squat" about caring for a newborn. 

Then fast forward a few years to when you have your next child and you are an old pro, or at least you think you are, until you realize that their personality is completely different than your first born. Everything you learned from the first child has to be tweaked in order to raise the second one. 

Yes, these moms were in the midst of having very young children at home.   I remember what it was like to try to get one ready to leave the house much less 2 or 3 at the same time, under the age of 5. 

So, I hope I didn't overwhelm some of these moms with frugal tips about saving money on groceries.  I still believe it is the first place to look to in order to save money.  I also hope they got my message about not trying to do all of the money saving tips at once.  And that who cares if your friend or neighbor has granite countertops.  Does it really matter that you have old laminate ones?  In the end I hope they got the message that saving money and getting out of debt means freedom to have choices.

I like having choices.

October 17, 2011

Reining it all In and making new goals

I am reining in my unnecessary spending.  Yes I have spent money over the past month that I shouldn't have.  Time to get back on track and make some new financial goals. 

1.  Make a list and go to Wal-mart once a week.  I've been disorganized and this has led to my going to Wal-mart one too many times and picking up a few impulse purchases along the way.  Enough said here.

2.  Grocery spending.  Make up menus to use up what is in the freezer and save the balance of my budgeted grocery money.

3.  Save money towards a semi-private vinyl fence for our yard to be installed next summer.

Along with these new goals are the old ones of paying off debt by March 2012, putting money into savings each month along with paying off the mortgage as soon as we can.

I have some other goals that I have made that are things I want to do.

1.  Go bungee jumping - NOT!!!!  I want to learn to make soap.  This is something I have always wanted to do.  There is something about using lye that kind of freaks me out, but as I have read and watched the tutorials I know I can do it.  It is just finding the time.

2.  Learn to sew some vintage clothes from the Edwardian/Titantic era.  Next to making soap, this is something I want to do.  It will mean I need to practice my sewing skills so I can actually accomplish some more difficult techniques. 

3.  Learn to knit on the round knitting looms I bought.

I see so many people make financial goals and that's great.  In the quest to quit spending excessively and to pay things down, don't forget the fun goals that you can make.  Is there something that you want to learn to do, but never made the time?  Many of the things that I want to do won't cost much money.   

There's something gratifying about working on financial goals while also learning to do something new.  If you are facing a mountain of debt that will take you a long time to dig out of, the worst thing you can do is to be totally obsessed by it and think of nothing else.  Make your financial plan and goals and stick with it.   While you should take getting out of debt serious, there is no reason you can't also bring joy to your life by learning to do something new.  It makes your life interesting.

October 14, 2011

No, not Peanut Butter too!!

Due to the drought in the southern states, the peanut crop has not done well at all which means peanut products will be going up in prices an estimated 40%.

My husband has peanut butter on a bagel every morning and I love crunchy peanut butter granola bars for breakfast.  I even make homemade dog treats that contain peanut butter.  Peanut butter is a staple for a lot of people.  I'm not going to go into the good and bad of regular peanut butter versus natural peanut butter.  The fact is it is a good source of protein for many people.

I have several jars in my pantry that I purchased for 99 cents a jar over the spring and summer.  Now I wish I would have purchased more.  Perhaps I should pay attention to what is an actual serving size of peanut butter so it will last longer.  Then again I should do this with all food.  For peanut butter a serving size is 2 tablespoons.  I know that we spread more than that on piece of bread or bagel slice.  So with everything pay attention to the exact serving sizes.

When I was a child I remember that peanut butter was one of the things that our family would receive in the commodity program.  When my father was out of work we would get some food from the government commodity program.  I remember peanut butter came in a large institutional can and I thought that was kinda "cool" as peanut butter in the store came in a jar. 

This week has been a week of excess spending because we adopted Buddy our new dog and had as of yesterday $238.00 in veterinary expenses.  The dog may have been free, but the upkeep and maintenance isn't.  Now that Buddy is in our family we will budget his expenses as we have with other pets.

Buddy is a gentle, wonderful dog and it just seems that him being  part of our family was meant to be.  With the addition of a new pet there comes new routines and more time has been spent getting Buddy used to his new home.  Also, there is the training.  Fortunately Buddy is housebroken but not leash trained so I am spending more of my time to get him leash trained so that I will be able to walk him without him straining at the leash. 

Buddy will be my new exercise partner as our older dog, Griffey, doesn't walk very fast due to her age.  She kind of lumbers along and I doubt that I burn 10 calories if that when I walk her.  But old dog or not, Griffey enjoys and savors her daily walks no matter how long it takes her.  Perhaps this is something we as human beings can learn from our pets - to savor the small things such as a slow lumbersome walk on a cool fall day. 

October 12, 2011

Rescuing a Dog

Someone dumped this dog in front of our house yesterday.


Today he became ours.

He is part Boxer and part Coon Hound.  It was not a frugal day.  The vet bill was close to $200 but he is a sweety.  We had been talking about getting another dog for a long time and I have always wanted a Boxer. 

He's a keeper.


October 10, 2011

Preparing for the Future

It’s been almost a week since I posted.  There are so many things I need to do but my energy level has been low.  Last week I felt “cruddy.”  I was tired a lot. Actually I think I had a mild case of the flu and so I didn’t push it too much and rested.  This is the luxury of being home in my opinion.  I can lie down on the couch when I don’t feel well and take a nap. 

Last week my husband was offered an opportunity to change jobs.  He wasn’t looking for a job as he is very happy with where he is working right now.  Sometimes though opportunities come along when you aren’t looking for them and then you find yourself trying to make a life decision – one you hadn’t asked for.

So last week we spent a few days trying to decide what was best for him and our family.  He would have to work in a community that is about a 30 minute drive from our home.  The salary and benefits are better.   If you looked at it from a financial view, you would immediately think that the obvious choice would be to take the new job. After all more money and better benefits translates into more money to pay off bills and our mortgage sooner.  It also means more money for retirement.

But it also means working in another community which means you can’t walk to and from work anymore nor come home for lunch.  My DH has a tremendous amount of flexibility with his job which is why he is also able to coach cross country for the local high school.  This is something he would have to give up.

So in the end the decision my husband made was to stay right where he was at.  Sometimes you can’t put a price on the non-monetary benefits that a job can offer you. 

The one thing that I have always worried about is that in light of what has happened in the past few years, job security is a thing of the past.  Companies can close or be bought out and employees can be laid off through downsizing.  My husband and I have never talked much about what would happen if he found himself out of a job when he is in his late 50’s, until this weekend. 

My husband is 53 years old and I am 52.  We talked about the scenario of being out of a job in his late 50’s and what we would do.  How would we pay our bills?  We came up with a plan which involves continuing to be careful about our hard earned money.   Our credit card debt will be paid off between January and March of 2012.  What a relief.  And what comes next – the mortgage.  Think about it – what would your life be like if you had no credit card debt, no car payments and no mortgage?  Without those bills, my DH could work a job that pays considerably less money.  We talked about all the possibilities. 

The key is that we live simply and will continue to live simply.  Nothing will change. 

I have a goal in the next year or so to start my own business.  It won’t be a big money maker, but I do hope that I can at least net around $300 a month.  I want to make bar soap, lotions, lip balms and lotion bars to sell.  It’s something I have always been interested in doing.  At the very least I could start out by making these as gifts to give to my family and friends on special occasions.  It’s a hobby that could be transformed into a modest money maker.  I'd be interested to hear from anyone who has ever started a "cottage" business.

I started this blog as a way to keep track of my new lifestyle and how I could cut back on expenses to live on one income.  Now I am realizing that this lifestyle is the way we will continue to live for the rest of our lives and that is so freeing.  My husband does not need to work a job that pays more money just so we can buy more stuff.  That is not freeing.  It is far more fun to live on less and enjoy the freedom that it brings to become debt free.

October 04, 2011

Does your spending change as you pay down debt?

We paid off our car in July and we made the final payment on my husband's truck this week.  It's a good feeling.  Two years ago I looked ahead to this time as I knew that once these two vehicles were paid off, it would jumpstart the further reduction of our debt and also enable us to put more in savings. 

There's something about having extra money in the budget each month to put on the remaining bills or put in savings.  It's just a little bit of piece of mind.

We are not yet to our final goal of paying off all consumer debt and then the mortgage.  I have been thinking about the psychology of this scenario.  When you've become accustomed to a smaller amount of money to spend on food or anything else for that matter, what happens when you pay off debt and have more money you can spend?  Do you relax the purse strings and spend money? 

Yes and no. 

With my getting busier as I am doing more volunteer work, I have added some money in the budget so that we could eat out once a week if we would like.  Now when I say eat out, we are not big spenders in restaurants.  We go to Subway, Wendy's or out for pizza.  We eat at better restaurants for special celebrations such as our anniversary.  Other than that, nothing else will change.

What I am experiencing is satisfaction that we have met a goal of getting two major bills paid off.  Living consciously of where our money is going, of how to save more money out of our budget has definitely become a new way of life to me. 

I'll never go back to the way it used to be.  I'll never be irresponsible with our hard earned money. 

When you start out looking at a mountain of debt and you are on a limited income, it is too much to look at the big picture.  The worst thing you can do is to think it is too much to face so you give up.  Take it one bill at a time.  Stick with it and in time, yes it takes some time, you will see your hard work and your "stick with it" attitude paying off.

Hang in there.  It will happen. 

October 03, 2011

Shopping at Goodwill and Dealing with Paxil

I have been to our Goodwill store here in town twice.  The first time I didn't find anything I needed.  The second time I found a perfect woven table cloth for my dining room table. 

While I was attending a church leadership seminar in Kansas City last week, I noticed some of the clothes that the presenters were wearing.  Later in the hotel I would write down what I saw and what I liked and I was determined to find some of the same "looks." 

I have never had a jean jacket that I truly loved and after seeing the jean jackets being worn by women with various outfits I decided that I wanted a jean jacket.  Now, the one thing I am determined to do is that when I buy an article of clothing, I must get rid of something in my closet. 

On Saturday I went shopping at our local Goodwill store and I found just what I was looking for.  In fact I found a couple of really nice sweaters that I bought also.

Here is the jean jacket that I bought for $4.00. 

The following items I have had in my closet for over 5 years and I wear them off and on.

The skirt is lacey.  Here is the jewelry that I already had. 

Look what happens when I open the faux pearl necklace and wear it long.  The silver chains will be hidden by the collar on my jacket.  Then I add the rest of the articles of clothing and I get this. 

Here's the jacket close up.

Here is a crocheted skirt that I have had for at least 6 years.

Here it is with the jacket for a slightly Bohemian look.  I like both looks.

Now I am on the hunt for a knee length coat to wear with jeans and pants.  I made a major mistake when I went to Goodwill on Saturday.  As I came in the door I saw a coat that was a good possibility but I bypassed it and went looking for jean jackets.  I should have put the coat in my cart to try on after I found the jean jacket as someone else bought it before I could.  Oh well, lesson learned. 

Tuesday is a good day to shop at Goodwill so tomorrow I will take a break from my work to go and see what has come in on the latest shipment.  I'm hooked. 

While at Goodwill I didn't only purchase clothing.  I have been wanting old style canning jars for years and look what I found at Goodwill. 

And now on to Paxil.

Last week was week three of being weaned off Paxil.  Well, I hit a brick wall while I was in Kansas City in that I suddenly started suffering the side effects from going off this drug.  I could handle it for the most part but after I got home it got worse.  Migraine type headaches along with nausea, vertigo and "brain sparks."  These are like zaps or jolts in the brain.  Why I was doing so well only to be sidelined on the 21st day is beyond me. 

I couldn't cope with the side effects so I chose to go back on Paxil and leave weaning off of it for another season.  After talking to my doctor about what I experienced it sounds like when I am ready to try weaning off Paxil again I will need to decrease my dosage very, very slowly instead of what normally works for everyone else. 

While in Kansas City I went to bed a lot earlier and I am continuing to do so.  As long as I get at least 8 hours of sleep at night, I am good during the day.  I'll leave going off Paxil for another time. 

I would love to hear from any of you about your shopping experiences at thrift or Goodwill stores.  My rule remains the same of buying only what I need and at a good value.  The fun thing is that with the prices of thrift stores I can come up with a look that is all my own -- I guess the best way to describe it is I like to dress a little "funky" sometimes with a Bohemian edge and I love doing it for a small fee.