June 30, 2012

Those lazy, crazy Saturdays

Saturdays are lazy, relaxing days around our house. No matter what, my husband and I sit on the back porch, sip coffee and read the morning newspaper. I love our time together. With our new puppy, Molly, Saturday mornings start earlier than ever and sipping coffee is never simple. Molly gets up at 6:00 a.m. no matter what day of the week and she likes to romp around the backyard.

This morning it had rained so the backyard was a little muddy. Today was the wrong day to wear my white bathrobe, with my white nightgown on the back porch while sipping coffee. I looked up and before I could do anything Molly was running towards me and before you could say "MOLLY!!" I had muddy paws and coffee all over me. Oh, and the citronella candle almost got dowsed out by coffee.

So, while I brewed another cup of coffee, I changed into an old pair of shorts and a t-shirt. I took my bathrobe and nightgown and put them in the wash with some detergent and bleach and then I started over with a fresh cup of coffee and newspaper on the back porch.

We had Molly spayed this week. I do not want to add to the pet population. While Molly was under anesthesia, I had them paint her toenails. I think she's "styling."

Today being the last day of the month, I had several coupons that were going to expire. I go through my coupon binder the last week of each month and pull any coupons out that are going to expire. If there are high value coupons on products that I know I can use, I set them aside to possibly use. The rest I throw.

By high value coupons this is what I had: 50 cents off Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, 50 cents off Gain Dish Detergent, $1.00 off any Tide, $2.00 off any Venus or Daisy disposable razors, BOGO Hershey's candy bar, $3.00 off two Pantene products, 35 cents off Ivory bar soap, $1.00 off Secret deoderant, $1.00 off Splenda, $1.00 off Bounty Basic Paper Towels, and $2.00 off Keri Body Lotion.

These are all items I can use and the value of these coupons are quite high for these products. Remember, I live in a small town so it is easy for me to go to Dollar General, drive 1 block to a grocery store and then drive 1/2 mile to the Super Walmart. It doesn't take much time for me to drive around and find the lowest price.

At Dollar General I used the $1.00 off Tide coupon on a smaller jug (25 load size) of detergent which made the final price $5.00. I don't use Tide as a general rule of thumb as it is so expensive but I like to keep it on hand to pre-treat and to use for those really hard stains such as blood, chocolate and ketchup. A little bit of Tide on stains can go a long way and I stretch it.

Here are the rest of the deals I found (most were unadvertised). My net price after coupons for the products are as follows:

1. Venus Simply Disposable Razors - 4 count - $1.50
2. Secret Deoderant - $0.75
3. Bounty Basic Paper Towels - 8 count - $4.49
4. Mr. Clean Magic Eraser - 2 count - $1.49
5. Gain Dish Detergent - $1.49 (large bottle)
6. Hershey's Air Delight Candy Bars - 2 bars - $0.75
7. Splenda - 50 count - $1.49
8. Keri Lotion - 15 oz bottle - $3.97
9. Pantene Shampoo - 13 oz. bottles - $1.83
10. 3 bars of Ivory Soap - $0.89

All of the above are products that I use. No, I didn't need these now (except for the chocolate) and I will add them to my stockpile.  I had multiple coupons so this was a nice time to stock up.

I want to address the Ivory soap. I never really used Ivory soap until I started finding coupons for the soap. Granted the coupons are for 25 cents or 35 cents, but when you end up with 3 bars of soap for under $1.00, that is a good deal. You can use Ivory soap for showering or you can even use it in homemade laundry soap. It is a nice basic soap. Here's another tip, rub a bar of Ivory soap on a mosquito bite and it will relieve the itching.

I only used these coupons when the price of the product was a deal. I didn't use them just to use them. In fact, I had several other coupons with me that I ended up throwing away as I never found a good price on the products.

You have to know when to use coupons and when to throw them away. I'm set on shampoo and razors and lotion for long time. As for the chocolate, that will probably only last a couple days.

June 27, 2012

Crockpot Pulled Pork for a Very Hot Day

It is going to be in the 100's today - yes that is going to be the temperature. I have no idea what the heat index is going to be. That is even hot for Iowa. I wonder if the corn will start to pop in the fields. When it is hot, I definitely pull out the crockpot because who wants to add to the heat by warming up the stove or oven?

I came across this recipe a few years ago and it has become one of our favorites. Pork goes on sale here in Iowa quite often and when it does, I stock up. Back in March boneless pork roast was on sale for $1.79 a lb. so I bought 6 roasts. They averaged in the 3 to 4 lb. size. Last night I pulled one of those roasts out of the freezer to thaw as I am going to use it in one of our favorite crockpot recipes.

This recipe is for pulled pork sandwiches and it will be perfect for supper tonight. Here is the recipe:

1 large Vidalia or other sweet onion, sliced (I use a yellow onion when I don't have Vidalia)
3 lbs. boneless pork roast, rinsed and patted dry
salt and pepper
1 cup barbeque sauce (bottled or homemade)
1/2 cup yellow mustard
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1 cup chicken broth
1 lime, juiced (I have the bottled juice on hand just for this purpose)

The above recipe does not call for brown sugar, but I add about 2 tablespoons to cut the tang a little but that is entirely up to the cook. Just taste the sauce before pouring it over the pork and see if you think it needs it.

Place the sliced onions in the bottom of the crockpot. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Place in slow cooker on top of the onions, fat side up.

In a medium bowl, stir together the barbeque sauce, mustard, tomato paste, chicken broth and lime juice. Pour over the pork. Cover and cook on low for 6 to 8 hours. Remove the pork and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes. Pull the pork with two forks or cut up with a knife and serve on buns.

I will have plenty of leftovers with this roast so I will freeze half of it for another day. I have even served this over noodles for a change of pace and everyone has loved it.

What else will I serve with the sandwiches? Watermelon of course, along with some coleslaw. Watermelon has been on sale here for $3.88 for a whole seedless watermelon. As for coleslaw, cabbage is always an inexpensive alternative for a salad.

June 26, 2012

I got a job - Part Time

I'm very excited as I got a part time job at our local public library. By part time, I mean part time. I will be working as a fill in when people are on vacation or sick or where there are gaps in scheduling. It is a foot in the door type of job and I am hoping that it will lead to 15 hours a week which would be perfect for me.

So, why did I apply for a part time job? Because it is the library!!!! I am going to absolutely love working there. There are very few opportunities to work at our public library because everyone that works there has been there for a long time. No one wants to move on because they like it there. My other reasons were to build savings and lastly I feel that I need to do something to take me out of the house - something to call my own. After my bout with volunteering, I decided that I would prefer to work part time and get paid than volunteer at another organization. 

The library is 4 blocks from my home and it is across the street from where my husband works. I can walk there year round. Also I will still help my friend in her Merle Norman store when she needs the help. Her store is two blocks north of the library. I love living in a small town and being able to walk to the places I need to go. 

All of my earnings will go into savings to build an emergency fund. By working part time I will still be able to live frugally and still be able to do everything I need to do around the house. I am not going to get rich working at the library, but I will be bringing in extra money to go into savings. Best of all I will not sacrifice the time that I value being home. 

I wasn't really looking for a job but when I saw the opening at the library, I knew I just had to apply. I'm really excited and am grateful that this has dropped into my lap. I know that I am very fortunate. 

June 24, 2012

Dateline Episode - "America Now - Lost in Suburbia"

I watched tonight's episode of Dateline with great interest. It profiled 3 families living in the Boulder, Colorado area. One was a single mom and the other two families consisted of two parents with children. All three families were going through unemployment.

All three were getting assistance from a local charity, Sister Carmen Community Center, with housing assistance and access to a food pantry. It was very interesting to watch this as the job losses occurred in 2011. In the news we have been reading about how things are getting better, and they are in certain areas of the country. In our area for example there have been "real" jobs advertised in the newspaper and things seem to be picking up. This isn't the same for other areas of the country.

Here are the basics of this broadcast.

1. People live in denial when they lose their jobs. Denial is part of the grieving process of losing a job. They feel they can easily find another one soon and don't feel there should be much trouble finding work. I think that since they had been employed they have no idea what the job market is like until they lose their job. It's still rough out there and when these families found themselves unemployed they were then faced with the immense struggle of finding work. I felt awful for all three families.

2. Each family cut back and got assistance. Each family struggled with accepting assistance, feeling shameful that they were needing the help. The one thing that I thought was good was the counseling they received through the Sister Carmen Community Center. In one session the counselor tells one of the women that she feels that they are still living above their means and need to cut back further while another family was doing everything they could to cut back expenses. They cancelled cablevision, after school activities for their children and cut back on their internet service.  I know families that wouldn't have done these three things to save money as they would have thought that these were necessities. 

3. Each family had savings that they used up quickly.

4. Each family had to face the fact that they may have to take any job that came along even one that they were immensely over qualified for. Temporary jobs are better than no jobs at all.

5.  The middle class is becoming a forgotten class.

What did I learn from this broadcast?

1. I learned that it could happen to my family. No one is ever immune to unemployment and we should always be prepared for the possibility.

2. I also realized that I could cut back to the bone if I needed to in order to survive. During the broadcast I started to think of ways that I would save money if we needed to live on next to nothing. How about this? Turn off the lights and go to bed when it gets dark in order to save on electricity. Get up earlier when the sun comes up. Save your water from the first wash load in order to use again to wash the dark clothes. Use minimal of everything including laundry soap, shampoo and so on. How about taking a short shower every other day and on the off days use a sponge in a pan of water to wash up?

Bottom line, always be prepared for the worse to happen and pray that it never does. In the meantime you will have the security of knowing if the worse does happen, you can survive because you are prepared.

I needed to watch this as a wake up call to get more money into savings just in case the worse would ever happen. The worse may not be a job loss, but it could be the need for more money for retirement.

I've Been Struggling - Emotionally

I've noticed over the past few weeks that it has been harder for me to post things on my blog. At first I thought it was because I had run out of ideas, but I now know that it is the result of a trauma that I experienced the first week in May. I just couldn't sit down and write. I couldn't even read a book or start sewing those aprons I had been wanting to sew.  I couldn't think straight and at times I was concerned that I was slipping into that ugly face of depression again.

In the past year I had stepped up to volunteer and was a volunteer staff member at an organization. I found it quite rewarding and I enjoyed helping people and feeling part of a team. In May, at a staff meeting, I was verbally attacked and the meeting lasted for 90 minutes. I sat silent for the majority of the time and I realized that I was shutting down emotionally to everything that was going on at the meeting. It was weird stuff such as “you interrupted me back in February when I was talking to someone.” In other words, it was not anything I had done, but it was the fact that I was not liked by some of the staff. In the end the manager stated that any emotions that had been directed at me should have been directed at him and that he supported me. But, you can’t take away the hurtful comments and the betrayal that had occurred during that meeting. I lost trust and faith in the “team” that I thought I had been a part of and I resigned shortly thereafter.

Time to move on, I thought, which is easier said than done. When you are part of something for 9 months and then it is gone, it is hard to find a new focus. I realize that now. I should have given myself time to heal, but I didn’t. I put my focus on earning/saving $100 a week and tried to forget the hurt that I had experienced. I’m a grown up and I can deal with rejection and I should be able to move on, but I couldn’t.

Last week my husband took the week off from work and we worked on household projects together. He insisted on going to the local bakery each day to pick up a sweet roll for our “coffee time.” We would sit on our deck and eat the treat while we sipped a cup of coffee and we enjoyed each other’s company. I noticed as each day came and went that I was starting to heal from the trauma and I was moving on. Perhaps it was being with my husband for a full week during the day and having the company that made me feel so much better about myself. We worked as a team to get done what we needed to get done.

I feel so much better and I now know that I was holding onto that “trauma” and I had not dealt with the hurt. I pushed it down deep and avoided dealing with the emotions because it was painful. Well, I have dealt with it. I feel so much better and now I am ready to get back to normal – whatever that is.

June 18, 2012

Staycation and a Great Buy

Instead of taking a vacation, we are staying close to home this year and working on some projects. Honestly I just didn't want to go to the trouble of figuring where we would like to go, make reservations, do the drive thing and all that goes with it. Yes, many people would love to get away on a vacation but this year it just seemed like a hassle. I just wanted us to stay home and do some projects and relax. Also, I didn't want to spend the money. 

Today we did some work outside in 100 degree heat index. Funny thing is that since the wind was blowing hard, it was hot but didn't really seem to bother us.

We have money set aside in a home repair fund and we spent around $175 today on patio stones, gravel and such to repair the foundation around our shed. Our dogs love to dig under the shed and we had enough of it. So we spent some dough and we are half way through with this project. It makes the shed look like it has a little patio in the front of it. More pictures to follow. Let's just say that it makes everything in the yard look better. 

On the way home from Wal-mart we drove by a second hand store. I drive by this store all the time but have never stopped to look at what they had to sell. Today I stopped and bought these:

The yellow chair is a stool that has steps that you pull out to use as a step stool. The design is yellow cracked ice and it was made in 1956 per the stamp underneath the chair. The two dinette chairs have a gray cracked ice design. And...... the cost??? A total of $11 for the three of them. I have priced these brand new and the dinette chairs would cost $249 and the stool would cost around $50. There is minimal wear on the three of these.

Here is a link to the post I made about my kitchen inspiration pieces and you can see a picture of the dinette table. I feel like a kid on Christmas morning now as I am so thrilled with this purchase. I didn't think I would be able to find these items in such good shape and at a low price. It just goes to show you that there are bargains to be found out there and that it does pay to stop by some stores that you have never shopped before. I will definitely be going back to browse at this store for any other items I may need for our home.  

June 11, 2012

Need to Catch Up

I realized last night that I haven’t posted anything for a week. Last week is a blur. The week began with a doctor’s appointment. My left knee was causing me quite a bit of pain when I would kneel and put pressure on it. It wasn’t getting any better and had been this way for a few months. It was getting worse so I made the appointment hoping that the doctor would pronounce it a “sports injury.” After all if you are going to have an injured knee wouldn’t it be cool to say it happened by over exercising? No such luck. I injured it sometime in the past few months by bumping it and it had not healed properly. Somehow I would think that I would know if I had bumped it that hard. So now I need to do some rehab exercises and take an anti-inflammatory medicine that also causes me to be drowsy. Yuck. I hate that, but you have to do what you have to do.

I worked four days last week. On Tuesday I worked from 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. at the polls for Election day. I was exhausted. Then on Wednesday through Friday I worked for my friend at her Merle Norman store. She is in the middle of remodeling and there was a lot of work to be done. I exceeded my $100 a week earning/savings goal last week and earned $260 for my part time work. My friend wants me to work every Wednesday in her store and I would expect it would be for around 5 to 6 hours a week which suits me fine.

What else is going on? Depression. Yep. I realized last week that I have been having the “blues” which is mild Depression for me. I think what has led to it is that my life is a little overwhelming right now with responsibilities. We have our new puppy, Molly and she can be feisty especially early in the morning. She is housebroken now and we are spending time with her in obedience training. Molly is smart and by that I mean she is smart enough to know what pushes my buttons. We are working with her every day. Then there is our other dog, Griffey, who is towards the end of her life cycle and she has health issues. Add to all of this the extra people living with us and the household chores along with the home improvement projects and the stresses of dealing with finances and you have the recipe for being overwhelmed and depressed. 

So how am I dealing with it? First of all I am not taking an anti-depressant. I weaned myself off Paxil in February after we put our dog, Buddy, to sleep. I am choosing not to go on an anti-depressant for mild Depression. Instead I am learning to find ways to manage and live with it. At the top of my list is working out at Curves. I can’t believe how great I feel after working out. Working at my friend’s store on Wednesdays helps also. 

In dealing with Depression I know that I can’t let my days be subject to chance. I have to plan them. Today it is laundry, working out and having lunch with a friend. Then there is some cleaning that must be done. Tonight I will be ironing fabric so that I can get ready to lay a pattern out. Before I go to bed I will look ahead to tomorrow and plan what I want and need to do. It is a balance of work and play.

Let’s face it, even when you don’t suffer from Depression, you have your “down” days. Those are days when you aren’t happy and may feel a little low. Those days happen for me every day usually during the evening. How do I cope with evenings? I plan for them. If you know that you are going to feel depressed in the evening, then do something that you like to do. I spend my evenings reading books or watching a movie and spending time with my husband. 

However, if I feel my depression is going beyond mild, then I will of course call my doctor and get back on Paxil. I recognize what I can handle on my own and what I can’t. Life isn’t perfect and everyday isn’t filled with top of the mountain experiences. When I was on Paxil I was happy all the time, and that isn’t a bad thing, it’s just that I think I wasn’t coping with everyday life as I was too “drugged.” In my life, I need to experience the ups and the downs and be able to cope with both. 

June 03, 2012

$100 a Week - Motivation

I have always been a big believer in small steps that lead to bigger steps which lead to big achievements.  I learned this back in college some 35 years ago when it came to writing a term paper.  It looked overwhelming as a whole, but broken down into smaller steps made it attainable and easier to work through.  The same goes for finances.  $100 a week in one year is $5,200 and in three years it is $15,600 and in five years it is $26,000.  Why is this important?  Because it just is PERIOD.

In the past year I have had a feeling that we will need to sell our house prior to retirement.  Actually – before we hit 60.  (I am 53 and my husband is 54.)  Now, we have a hard time sometimes admitting to our age since my husband has run marathons and just yesterday he ran a half marathon and about 5 weeks ago he ran another half marathon.  I work out at Curves and I watch what I eat.  I also walk everywhere possible.  I tell you this because even though I am physically fit, I have terrible lower back pain and on occasion hip and knee pain.  This led to a discussion tonight that we have talked about casually off and on. 

Steep "farmhouse" style steps to the upstairs
We are going to sell our house in 3 to 5 years. 

Why?  For retirement and the long term I need to live in a one story house.  Also we want to downsize so that we have a house that is newer and easier to maintain.  We aren’t looking to build or buy new.  We would look at a house that had been built in the past 30 to 40 years.  In fact we are considering a two bedroom home if the bedrooms are big or a three bedroom ranch.  The house we live in now was built in 1892 and has 4 bedrooms and 2 bathrooms.   

We have a lot of work that needs to be done on our house and 3 to 5 years is very, very doable.  Our youngest will be out of college in 3 years and that would be the earliest that we would be able to move if we can get done in 3 years what we need to do.  Also if we are ready to sell in 3 years, we can take a year or so to find the right house. 

Whether we sell or not, this long list of updates must be done so I am making a list and we will be doing the majority of the work ourselves.  So we need to pace ourselves as to the work and we also need to pace ourselves in the way of resources to pay for the updates.  I am also going to be sensible about these improvements.  Putting granite countertops into our kitchen is not going to happen.  Laminate is perfectly fine for this house. 

So here I sit tonight making a list of what needs to be done, with the approximate cost and calendaring when or what year we will get this done.  I am sure we will be able to sell our home, unless the market is quite depressed, but in that case we have a home to live in and we can wait it out.  Hopefully by downsizing and going smaller we will be able to come out ahead or just even.

So now we have a new direction and a goal.  What am I looking to in the next house?  A kitchen that doesn’t have to be gigantic, but have a little more counter space and is laid out a little better.  We want a two car attached garage, 2 to 3 bedrooms and 1 ½ bathrooms.  My husband wants a screened in porch and if our new “home” doesn’t have one, we can add that later.  I want to keep with a retro theme so a small ranch built in the 1950’s that has been well maintained is not out of the question for us.
We aren’t looking for a huge “McMansion” house but something that just fits our needs. 

This leads me to a new direction and new goals for us over the next few years, namely how we spend our money. If we are planning to downsize, we don’t need to buy anymore stuff.  We need to direct money to home improvements.  Also, for the first time I am getting excited about a financial goal.  It is one thing to save money for an emergency, which is important, but another to get excited about saving money for something more tangible.

When we purchased our house 15 years ago the market was a Seller’s market and we purchased this home as it was frankly about the only one that we could afford and it met our needs.  So I now feel as if I am going to get the home that I really have always wanted – a simple, modest home on one level. 

Now as to the $100 a week that I started this post with, I am so glad that I started to do this as we will need this money for savings and for updates/improvements for the house. 

In upcoming posts, perhaps once a month, I will post about what projects we are working on and the cost of each project.  As I stated earlier, we will be doing as many of these projects as possible.  There will be a whole lot of sweat equity going on for sure.