May 31, 2012

Getting a Job or Not - Savings - Part 1

My $100 a week to save or earn is going along quite well.  I have earned $45 in the past week and I have saved $32 for a total of $77 in my “$100 a week savings account.” 

I saved $22 by trading services in return for getting my nails done.  Now before anyone asks why I am living a frugal lifestyle and getting my nails done, it is the one thing that I do for myself that is worth every penny.  To sit for an hour and have a dear friend tend to my nails and polish them is a treat and is also cheaper than seeing a  therapist.  It is the one thing that I asked my husband if we could still afford when I chose to stay home and it is the one thing that I have scrimped and saved to make sure that I could afford to have done every other Wednesday. 

I need to concentrate on saving money as that will be a big part of meeting my goal.  I’m looking at saving money on clothing.  Namely – I’m not going to buy any clothing for myself.  I have plenty of fabric on hand to sew tops and other things I need but I think I will find the most savings from repairing clothing that normally wouldn’t get repaired.  I’m talking about socks and underwear here folks.  Yep – a little needle and thread to sew holes in socks and repair undergarments will work just fine.  In fact, I’ve started to do this already. 

I use pads sometimes and the sticky backs to these pads can wreak havoc on fabric fibers in the crotch of underwear.  I have several pairs that have worn thin in the crotch from using these pads.  I took 4 pairs of underwear that had the fibers worn thin and a couple had holes in them.  I sacrificed 1 pair and used a double thickness of this fabric to sew onto the crotch of the 3 pairs of underwear that had holes in the crotch or the fabric was quite thin.  I didn’t get my sewing machine out to do this, I mended these by hand.  The result is that I have 3 nice pairs of underwear with a little extra thickness in the crotch.  This will extend the life of the underwear. 

Now before anyone says that this is something that isn’t worth their time, I want to ask this question.  How much time do you spend watching t.v. or a movie?  What about being a passenger in a car for a lengthy car ride?  Place items to mend in a basket and then when you are sitting and watching t.v. reach into your basket and start mending.   
Too many times we toss things out that could be salvaged if we just put a little time into it.  These items have already been bought and paid for and it can be such a waste just to toss them out without trying to salvage them. 

To replace these pairs of underwear would have cost around $10.00.  They were repaired while I was watching a movie that I had planned on watching.  No extra time was expended and I have the satisfaction of salvaging these articles of clothing by repairing them.

I am taking $32 from our checking account and will move it to my $100 a week savings account.”  ($22.00 saved from trading services for a manicure and $10 saved from repairing my underwear.)  This will bring my total earnings and savings for this week to $77.  

May 27, 2012

Getting a Job or Not - Part 3

Trying to find a way to increase our income has been a good exercise for me as it has made me really focus on what I want to do with my life. 

My desire has been to put $100 per week in savings by either earning $100 or by combining additional saving strategies with earning some income to total $100 a week.  

Here is what has happened in the past week. I investigated ways to earn an income outside of the home. I had the opportunity to go to work full time and at the same time I had an opportunity to piece meal some small jobs together. What did I learn about myself? I have learned three things. 

1. I really have come to value my time at home. It has taken me 3 years to truly realize the value of having the luxury of making my day my own and the independence it brings to my life and my family's life.

2. I need something to call my own - that is what a "job" can bring to my life. Something that takes me away from my house that doesn't involve my family. It is totally mine.

3. Money doesn't need to be earned by traditional nine to five jobs.

I decided that while the full time job would bring in a considerable amount of money quickly, it would also bring some problems. I really sat down and considered it and in the end I realized that although I had worked in an office setting for many, many years that perhaps it was time to consider something completely different for me to do.  I was a legal assistant preparing legal documents and now I am going to do something completely different.

I am going to help a friend in her Merle Norman cosmetic's store when she needs me. I helped her out on Thursday and I had a wonderful afternoon. I will be helping her again this Wednesday. It surprised me that I was having a lot of fun working in that type of environment and as I walked home at the end of the afternoon I knew that I had found a new interest and that was the direction I needed to go in. The office job would be stressful and I had already been that route before. 

In looking for opportunities to earn money I also have to consider what I can and cannot do. I have lower back problems and while I work out and lift weights to help strengthen my back, I cannot do a lot of physical work. For example, I cannot clean my entire house in a day. I have to pace myself and split it up into 2 days. So housecleaning is definitely out.

I am going to start sewing some aprons and I hope to sell these via friends on my Facebook page and perhaps on Etsy. This most likely will happen in the fall when I will have more time for sewing. 

More fabric purchased for $1.00 and $2.00 a yard on clearance.
This morning at church a friend told me that a local bakery is looking for some part time help for the summer only. I would pursue that but my son's former girlfriend works there and that would be kind of awkward. I really like her and don't want to make her feel uncomfortable. Networking and "putting the word out" is one of the best ways for finding part time or temporary work.  The important thing is to let everyone know that you are not limiting yourself to what jobs you held in the past.  You are open to something new. 

I now know that I can earn some money by working at my friend's store and by other creative means. It is very possible for me to earn an extra $100 a week over time. In other words it will take some time for me to be able to find enough work (or sales) to net $100 a week, but it will be worth it. 

Nothing happens over night, but it will happen. I know it. Then I will increase my goal. In the meantime I will balance earning some extra money per week, with finding more ways to save money so that I can net $100 in savings per week.

What ways will I find to save more money? I am working on a few ideas. More later.

May 23, 2012

Getting a Job or Not - Part 2

And so the dialogue continues with myself as to how to increase my income/savings to $100 per week beginning June 1st OR perhaps to find a job and work full time.

A friend of mine from my church has a Merle Norman store and she needs some help on occasion. If she would need me weekly for a couple hours I could earn around $30. I love this friend and her store is a wonderful place to be. When I say wonderful place I am talking about an uplifting and fun experience. For those that are not familiar with Merle Norman, it is a cosmetics store and my friend also does manicures and pedicures. 

I have also had the opportunity to work for the county in the upcoming elections as an election worker. I would earn minimum wage and work at the polls on election days. I would also be paid for training. Next election day is June 5th and I would work around 15 hours that day. Being paid minimum wage ($7.25 per hour) I would expect that I would earn around $120 total.

These are as needed jobs with income. They are obviously based on when I would be needed. 

Other areas I have thought to explore would be to deliver the weekly shopper. This is a supplement to the local newspaper that has the weekly grocery ads in it along with other classified advertisements and such. The pay is low and you would have to bundle these and deliver these to each house just like a newspaper. The average would be delivering around 200 of these papers once a week. I can't imagine delivering 200 papers. This is not a very good use of my time BUT if we were desperate and money being money, I would do it. I talked with a former delivery person and they earned $25 each time (once a week) they delivered this supplemental paper. The other drawback to this is that aside from the low income, if you are out of town you have to find someone else to deliver the supplement and you have to pay them yourself. Again, I am not at a desperate point but if I was, I would do it in a heartbeat.

Another option is to sell something. I have toyed with the idea of selling "retro" aprons that I could make.  This one is kind of hard as let's face it, you don't get a lot of extra money for your labor, but again - money is money. Of course I would have to continually be on the look out for a good deal on fabric. Here is a picture of two patterns for some retro type aprons along with some samples of fabric that I purchased recently.

How about these fabric options?

I want to stitch one of these aprons over the weekend and see how long it takes me, how I like the finished project and see if I really would enjoy making a few of these to sell. How will I sell these? I may ask my friend if I could sell them in her store or I could also sell them through my personal Facebook page. 

More ideas to come and I must say that it has been rather fun to investigate how to bring in more money into our household.

May 21, 2012

Getting a Job or Not.

For those of us living on one income, there does come a point when you question what you are doing. This is happening to me. Last week there were a few advertisements in the newspaper for jobs. These are real jobs and not just the "call this 1-800 number for more information" type of jobs. It got me to thinking. Should I apply for the three secretarial positions available? 

Do I want to apply for a job and if I got a job, do I really want to do this? Over the weekend I spent some time pondering this question. Am I serious about being a full time stay at home homemaker or do I want to go back to work and resume my career? 

The bottom line is that I feel we need more money in the bank for emergency home needs such as replacing a furnace, central air conditioner and other items. Money is what is really driving this thought process and how can I generate the money.

BUT the other side of this conversation is do I want to trade 40 hours out of my week for money and do I need to? What amount of money per week am I comfortable earning/generating to put into savings and does it require my working a full time job?

I have been home for almost 3 years now and my family is used to my being home. For that matter, I am used to it and I like the freedom it brings to me and my family. As the mom/wife I generally set the tone for the home and I am the one that is generally in charge of most things domestic. I may choose not to clean or do laundry, but I do believe that as long as I am home full time that is my responsibility and my job. Am I ready to trade my time and then do these things on the weekend with help?

Do you identify with the above? This has been quite a dialogue I have been having with myself. 

This morning my alarm went off at 6:00 as usual. I get up at 6:30 and my first thought was, I'm glad I don't have to get up and shower right away and get ready to go to work at an office. I like my freedom and I like being home. 

As I brewed a cup of coffee a number came to me - $100 a week. That is the amount I would like to come up with each week to either earn or find ways to cut from my budget in order save each week. I want this to be tangible. By tangible, I am planning to get to a goal of $100 saved and then open up a bank account and actually put money in it each week as a separate household account. Having a separate account to track my savings will give me the incentive I need to keep doing what I need to do.

So, what ideas do I have to generate the income or cut back and save the money? Well, I do believe that a bulk of it is going to come from finding a way to earn some money. I have some ideas and will post about those later. My goal is to do the research and be ready with a game plan by June 1st. That is only 10 days away so I need to get to work and evaluate how I can save money or earn money without sacrificing my enjoyment of being a full time homemaker.

May 16, 2012

A New Way with Pasta

Yesterday I decided to make what I refer to as goulash for supper. It is simply cooked macaroni with spaghetti sauce and ground beef topped with a little mozzarella and some parmesan cheese. Sometimes I use crushed canned tomatoes and some tomato sauce that I season with italian seasoning in place of the spaghetti sauce. Again, simple and frugal. 

I had some leftover spaghetti meat sauce that had been frozen waiting to be used. 

So what was the "new" about this dish? I cooked the macaroni and drained it well. Then I put a little oil in a skillet (and I mean about 1 tablespoon) and I coated the dish thoroughly. I dumped the drained macaroni into the skillet and proceeded to fry it until it was crisp. The key here is to be patient and let the heat do the work for you. When the bottom was nice and crispy I turned it over to cook the top and then broke it up so that each piece of macaroni had a chance to get crispy. 

I heated up the spaghetti meat sauce and then served the dish by simply placing the macaroni on each plate, topped with spaghetti sauce and sprinkled a little mozzarella on the top. I served this with a nice tossed salad of lettuce, yellow and red sweet peppers and carrots. Walmart had their day old French bread marked down so that rounded out the meal.

The crispy macaroni gave the whole dish a new flavor in that it was crispy and almost "popcorny" tasting. It was nice to have a crunch to the dish and it actually made me think of fried ravioli that you can get in a restaurant as an appetizer. 

I will definitely be doing this again. Best part - it was gobbled up and there were no leftovers.

May 15, 2012

Baby Robins

Here is what I found in my arbor near my front door today. 

I took this picture with my cell phone and I am not a photographer. Not bad for me.  It's fun to have time to enjoy nature.

Hamburger Update

For those of you interested in my hamburger dilemma I posted here, here is an update. 

I decided that $1.99 for 85% lean hamburger was too big of a deal to pass up. So a week ago today on the very last day of the sale I went to the store and they were totally out. I was given a rain check good for two weeks. This was even better. It gave me two weeks to figure out how exactly I was going to fit this additional amount of meat in my freezer. 

Here is what I plan to do. Cooked hamburger takes up less space so I am going to take about 15 lbs. of the 80% lean hamburger I already have in the freezer and cook it up and package it in 15 portions and freeze it. This will be wonderful to have ready to go for pizza toppings, sloppy joes, spaghetti and other casseroles. 

A few days after I received the rain check I noted that the same hamburger was now $3.99 a lb. I'm glad I got the rain check and will be purchasing the sale hamburger in the next week.

May 14, 2012

30 Day Strategic Plan and a little "take" on JP Morgan

J.P. Morgan made a big mistake recently. You can read about it here. They didn't lose taxpayer money, it was their own but it did beg to ask the question: have they not learned from past mistakes? Then again in business, you have to take some risks, and JP Morgan will continue on to make a lot of money this quarter.  

I'm not much of a risk taker.

In the midst of the financial crisis of 2008 I always separated the investment banks and the regular local community banks. You know the difference - there is the big Wall Street type investment bank and then there is the local mom and pop bank in every community. The mom and pop banks in our community know the faces and names of their customers. 

I bring this up because when we look at a big company like J.P. Morgan, it is easy for us to point the finger at them but many times we need to also point the finger back to us. Are we taking risks with our own finances by purchasing things we can't afford or by not saving money? In our day to day life do we go over budget constantly and never plan ahead? 

Perhaps the problem is that we have taken the "humanity" out of business but we can't do that in our own families. In other words, when I sit down at the table at night I face the people that depend on my husband and I to make wise financial choices. I also look across at my husband and know we have a responsibility to each other to make sure that when we retire, we have enough money to live on. We are a team working towards the same goal.

Today as I am doing laundry I am taking as much time as possible to plan the next 30 days in our household. I am working on menu plans, reviewing seasonal projects that need to be worked on, scheduling housework and sewing projects along with reading the first two chapters in "Home Comforts." I am also setting up a new budget plan to see if there is any way we can reduce our spending and get more money into savings. Anything that can't be done in 30 days will be added to the next 30 day planning session and my goal is that once I have done a 30 day plan that I could spend a little time each week working on a 3 month and 6 month plan for household projects.

Businesses would call it "strategic planning" and in a sense that is what I am doing. I'm just being smart by planning my strategy to do what it takes to run my household in the most economic way I can. 

I want to challenge everyone to make a 30 day plan. Sometimes you think - I don't have anything else I can do to save money but if you come up with a plan on how and when you are going to get the necessary work done to keep your household going, you will be surprised how many financial decisions arise. For example, I have a couple of days over the next few weeks that will be busy days. Those will be the days to plan meals for the crockpot and such. Those will be the days that I will be thankful that I worked ahead of time to have my household organized so that when I am gone, everything will keep running smoothly. Making a plan means no dining out those days because a meal will be either in the freezer to pop in the oven or in the crockpot ready to eat.

Already I have things spinning in my mind of what I need to get done. I have so much junk in my basement and garage now that I need to get this stuff pulled out, thrown out or given away. This requires a plan. What kind of plan? How about a 3 day set aside for this project alone? It means I will need to have help since I can't lift a lot of heavy items. It also means I need to have access to my husband's truck so that I can take the majority of these items to Goodwill and donate them. 

Ah - a plan. I love it. I get distracted easily but if I actually sit down and schedule the next 30 days out and stick to the plan, if only 75% of the time, then it will be a success. Things will arise and I will have to tweak some things and even make some changes, but when 30 days are up I know that I will have accomplished far more than I ever would have if I would have just made it up each day as I went. 

So here is the challenge: set aside some time to plan out the next 30 days of your life. Get everything down on paper or in your computer. Be realistic. Don't for example say that you are going to paint your livingroom in an afternoon. Come on, you can't do that. You and I both know that you have to pick the color, prep the walls, move the furniture, and start the work. Schedule everything with your style of work in mind, that is, do you easily get distracted?  Are you a morning person and that is when you should schedule the bulk of your work?  Do you like to work without taking many breaks or do you like to work for 30 minutes and take a break?  Be sure and schedule some fun time for yourself. That is what sewing and reading does for me. 

Pick a day that you want to begin. Mine is tomorrow May 15th. You could start May 20th or the 21st. It doesn't have to mean that you start on the 1st or the 15th. Just pick a day, get your planning done ahead of time and then work your plan.

May we all be successful in our planning and when we aren't 100% successful, may we not give up and be too hard on ourselves.

May 11, 2012

Housekeeping and a bit of this and that

I suck at housework. Okay, for some people that may be a little strong language, but I really am not a good housekeeper. I want to be a good housekeeper. Sometimes it just takes a little bit of a reality check such as having attainable goals for what I want to accomplish in a day. 

I have been sick with a bad cold for about 5 days. Today I did what was minimally necessary to keep our house going without creating chaos. This meant tidying but not cleaning. It mean that I took my husband up on his suggestion to order pizza (great coupon deals right now) and take a break. So, what did I do? I read books on my Kindle. I started one book last night and spent the entire morning reading and dozing when I got tired. Then I had a simple lunch and sat on the back porch and did some more reading and dozing. It was a perfect day. Even our new puppy, Molly, cooperated with my schedule. She took a lot of naps and played outside.

So, here I sit feeling pretty good about finally reading a book that I had been wanting to read and even more important I went through a ton of "samples" of books on my Kindle. Now I can delete samples and put some on my wish list. 

Back to housework - I am finally taking the time to really sit and evaluate my housekeeping skills. Perhaps I should call it my annual review. When I worked at the law firm, I prided myself in constantly educating myself on the law.  I asked questions and I read a lot.  I will be applying the same zeal to studying housekeeping.  

Beginning on Monday I am going to go chapter by chapter through three books that I have only used as references when I have a problem. I've talked about these books before here. They are "Home Comforts" by Cheryl Mendelson; "Homekeeping Handbook" by Martha Stewart and "Laundry" by Cheryl Mendelson. Now the time has come to quit using them as a reference and actually sit down and read them and apply what I learn to running my own household. 

Time to get serious and read, study, calendar, plan and see what becomes of it all.  I am beginning with the book Home Comforts. Anyone want to go on this Home Ec 101 journey with me?  

My goal is to work through these books over the summer and apply what I am learning as I go. Do I want to be a Martha Stewart? No. I just want to be the best housekeeper that I can be just like I wanted to be the best legal assistant that I could be when I worked outside the home. I know that along the way I will learn to take better care of the "things" in my house such as furnishings, clothing, electronics and better meal preparation which in turn will save me money and keep me on track.

May 05, 2012

Struggling with the Budget

I have struggled for the past 5 weeks with our budget. I have overspent and have chastised myself to get back on track. Since May 1st I have diligently been getting back on track.

With a new puppy in the house I haven't had much time for planning meals, planning my schedule or anything else. So with lack of planning, goes spending money on things that I normally wouldn't buy such as convenience foods or ordering pizza. It did make my life a little easier over the past few weeks though.

Molly trying to get our other dog, Griffey, out of the wading pool.
I have pondered a challenge for myself. I am not going to have a no spend day, week or month. What I have come up with is turning into two challenges. One challenge will be regarding food. I will be eating from my pantry and freezer and only buying what is necessary. Hopefully it will only be produce and other perishables that I will be purchasing. 

The second challenge will be for other purchases - non-food. Both of these challenges will be "need" based. In other words, do I actually "need" this? Pretty basic isn't it, but I want to take it another step further. For the non-food challenge it isn't enough to determine if it is a need, I will ask the question, is it essential? Aha. That puts things in a different perspective. 

Asking if something is essential is really the basic question to saving money. Anyone can take a want and put it in the need category if they really try to justify it. It's not so easy to make something essential.

The other day I spent a total of $5.84 on 6 lbs. of fresh strawberries. Yummy strawberries just to eat right out of the fridge. Necessary - you betcha!! We needed some fresh fruit and these were on sale for only 94 cents a lb. 

But - and you knew there was going to be a but -- I looked at the grocery ads for this week. I wanted to check on prices of fresh produce and milk. They are having a sale on 85% lean ground beef for only $1.99 lb. In order to get the $1.99 price, you have to purchase it in 10 lb. tubes. 

I only wanted to add this "dilemma" to this post as when you are consistently purchasing items on sale, it is hard to pass up a bargain. I am still pondering this one and I have until Tuesday to make a decision as that is when the sale ends. This is an incredible sale and I could buy 20 lbs. (the limit) and I would be set for a very long time and for a lot of burgers on the grill.

Need or want??? Never thought I would ask this question about ground beef.

May 04, 2012

Phone Apps that are Helpful

We dropped our land lines about 2 years ago. It was a great move especially during the "political season." I am learning more and more to take advantage of all the "Apps" out there for my Android phone - the free ones of course. These Apps keep me on track and have become a great help to me. Here are few of my favorites.

1. I use the App "Any.Do" as my list for writing anything and everything down that I need to do. I consider it my answer to the little piece of paper that I would right things down and then would lose by the end of the day. You can write your things to remember under "Today," "Tomorrow," "This Week," and "Later." Why do I like this App? It is simple and isn't complicated at all. It is easy to move things around and cross them off.

2. "Out of Milk" is the App I use for my shopping list. I simply create lists for each grocery store with what I am going to buy. It is easy to manage the lists and cross off the item after you have purchased it. You can also use the to do list, but I prefer the Any.Do list for a to do list. You can create a pantry list with this App which I plan to do as soon as I find the time.

3. "Prayer List" is the App I use to keep track of any prayer needs and also prayers answered. I love this App as it helps me track prayers.

4. "Spentable" is the App I recently downloaded to track my spending under different categories. So far it is working quite well and is helping me to get back on track and spend less.

5. "Prayers and Blessings" is an App that shows a different prayer and Bible verse each day. I like it's simplicity. You can easily share the prayer and Bible verse with anyone via e-mail, text message, clipboard or Social networking. There are days I need a quick "lift" and I find that all I need to do is to look at the prayer and verse of the day.

6. "DVD Shelf" is the App that I use to keep track of my d.v.d. library. This is a really fun App. You simply scan the bar code of your d.v.d. and it is automatically added to your "library" along with a picture of the front of the dvd. I love owning dvd's and there are times that I am out bargain shopping at Goodwill and I come across d.v.d.'s on sale for $1.00. I'll find one and wonder if I already have it. Many times I buy d.v.d.'s on sale as gifts and sometimes I get mixed up as to if I own it or bought it as a gift for someone else. This keeps me on track.

What do I look for in an app for my phone? I look at the reviews and then I make sure it is free. Also, I like apps that aren't too complicated. The more complicated, means the less I will use it. If I am going to grab my phone to quickly enter some kind of information, then I don't want to go through a lot of work to do it.

Why do I like Apps? They make my life easier. If I can quickly write something down that I must remember later, then Any.Do helps me. If I need something from the grocery store, then "Out of Milk" takes care of that for me. Because I need to track my spending, I love "Spentable." I love "DVD shelf" because it helps me organize my d.v.d. library. And because I am mindful of those in need and of my own spiritual needs, I love "Prayer List" and "Prayers and Blessing."

What are your favorite Apps?

May 02, 2012

A Puppy is like having a Newborn

Molly all worn out . . . .
. . . . from playing in the sprinkler.

Oh my Lord -- I had forgotten what it was like to have a puppy in the house. I remember some things -- like the persistence in getting the puppy outside in time to "potty" and also the constant wanting to bite and chew on me, but I forgot about all the time it takes out of your day to work with a puppy. Hence instead of staying up and writing my posts for this blog I have been going to bed early so I have energy.

Molly is at the new cycle of life and our other dog, our beloved Griffey, is towards the end of her life cycle. I am housebreaking Molly and I am diapering Griffey on her bad days. By bad days, Griffey is "leaking" as they say in the Vet world or has some issues of incontinence. Her liver enzymes are elevated also. However, that is all that is wrong with this wonderful black lab of 12 years. The vet has told us that it will be only a matter of time that this leads to other issues so we may need to start to have "the talk." It doesn't mean we are going to put her down right away, it only means that we need to talk about it so that when the time comes, we have a game plan.

Griffey sporting her diaper

Here is the plan - I will be with Griffey when they put her down and then for the week after I will be crying. Talking about it ahead of time helps with dealing with the grief process down the road.

When the time comes to put Griffey down, it has to be my husband's decision as Griffey is his dog and since I love my husband very much I am willing to diaper a dog when necessary. I diaper Griffey when she needs it and I let her go diaper free in the backyard.

This is leading to my next post -- all of this time spent with the dogs has left little time for any kind of organizing or planning which has led me to "fly by the seat of my pants" all the time. And this has led to spending money. So, it is time to put a "diaper" on the spending and avoid any leaks as much as possible.

Okay - Molly is asleep and it looks like from the previous sentence I need to get out of the house and take a break.