Wednesday, December 31, 2008

On Top of Mount Washmore....

The holidays and a bout of stomach flu have not been kind to our laundry.

Today I hauled six loads to the nearby Laundromat. This is after I filled our own washer with a load of whites. Ten dollars lighter and all of our laundry is waiting to be put away.

I really love going to the laundromat though. I love getting all of my laundry done at once, the big folding tables, the hot fresh smell of clean linens, and the rolling carts. Not that I'm going to make a habit of going to the laundromat but today I don't regret it.

I used to work at a laundromat in college and loved to smell peoples different soaps and softeners. Gain and Fab were favorites. I helped instruct a freshman on how to use a washing machine. It apparently was his first time doing his own laundry and he was very embarrassed to ask for help and really wanted me to do it on the sly so no one would know. I found rifle bullets in the dryer vents and pieces of cilantro and lime in the washers of the local Mexican restaurant owner. Is this too much information?

Anyway, I've got the washing machine halfway filled with miscellaneous items that got missed. Tomorrow I'll be back on my game.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

What I have to change about my spending.

Two things have got to happen for us to truly stretch every penny.

1. I need a budget for household and food expenses. I'll be discussing this with hubby but I think we'll probably do $60 a week for food and house and $50 (a month) for entertainment. That's less than $300 a month for everything but if I stick to it I know we can make it work.
2. I need to price book.

A few years ago I purchased a Dollar Stretcher price book and used it sporadically to track the price of diapers. It's time to dust that off because even though I'm pretty price savvy there's nothing like hard facts written down to show me whether or not I'm getting a good price.

Menu for the Week

Monday- We had banana french toast, scrambled eggs and veggie sausage.

Tuesday- Stir Fry with crisper and leftover veggies and a bit of burger and egg. Baked spring rolls from freezer. Finish the rest of the Aldi pineapple.

Wednesday- We're going out to Chuck E. Cheese for lunch. If we're hungry later we'll eat the Velveeta and Rotel that I have saved from Christmas.

Thursday- Leftovers or a packet of Hungarian soup with some veggies thrown in.

Friday- Homemade pizza night with bread machine crust.

Things to do:
Make cranberry bread with the leftover sauce.
Eat the buttermilk bread before it spoils.
Freeze extra rice.
Use up the cup of buttermilk.
Cook the crisper apples.
Make yogurt.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Schnucks Grocery Trip Today

Before Coupons and $35 Gift Card from Hubby's work: $63.27
After Coupons and Gift Card (OOP): $12.33

This is in no way representative of a balanced diet or even what we need this week (which is very little). Coupons made the holiday clearance candy too irresistible. And it's great for those party favor bags I'll be assembling in a month or so for the kid's joint birthday. The advent calendar is a great way for my kid to count down the days until their February birthdays. They'll simply have to share the tiny chocolate or take turns each night. And Hubby will just have to ignore the snowflakes on his box of Valentine's day candy.

Frugality 1- PIzza Hut 0

Hubby and I were planning on finding a pizza coupon in our Entertainment Guide last night because neither one of us wanted to cook.

Five minutes after reading this post by and I'm in the kitchen mixing up my first batch of homemade pasta.

Even though the dough was too thick we all really enjoyed it. And I found one more reason to keep my pantry stocked with essentials so I can avoid a last minute trip to the grocery store.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Getting a head start on next Christmas.

Maybe it's the impending spending cuts slated for our family budget but I started buying small presents for next year.

Dollar General supplied the kid's 2009 ornaments for .50 cents apiece. This time we went with a religious theme.

I also found a 6 pack of Rayovak AAA batteries on clearance for $1.50 and used a $1 off coupon.

Walgreens supplied:
Peanuts Christmas themed activity pads stocking stuffers for .12 cents apiece.
Lip Smackers sets for $1.24 (small gifts for little girls I know)
A Glade Wisp Flameless Candle (.99 cents after coupon/rebate)
Glade Scented Oil Candle Holder set (.50 cents after coupon/rebate)

I also got Dawn dish washing detergent for .49 cents after MFR and store coupon.

Now that Walgreens has online rebate redemption the cost of a stamp is no longer a factor. I just have to wait for my Walgreens to get out their Revlon Matte collection out so I can get one more freebie for the gift tote.

FYI- the two Walgreens I went in today had a lot of make up clearance and mark downs. If you need new make up and have coupons you could really clean up in there. I however have more make up than I can ever wear and have taken to simply applying some old red lipstick or chapstick after I get out of the shower. Maybe another one of my resolutions will be to actually use my make up so people won't confuse me with my (handsome but still manly looking) husband. ; )

Saturday, December 27, 2008

What 2009 will bring

I've considered a no spend year where we just don't buy anything unless it's food or health related. But truth be told, I want to go on vacation this year with my family and I don't really want to give up even frugal gift giving. Plus, Hubby is taking me on another business trip with him in a few weeks and I will have to spend money on a few meals out.

So, what's a frugal family to do when they want to seriously cut back their spending?
1. Use up what we already own. (tea, anyone?)
2. Don't buy anything unless it's budgeted for or a necessary need. Exhaust all second hand options first before buying new.

I still want to continue my stockpile as we never know what the future holds. I'll just have to fit into the budget and buy when the price is right.

I know this plan seems simplistic. It is. I've been rather lazy with our money the last few years since we've eliminated all debt except our mortgage. I'm still naturally frugal so we're in good shape but I am an admitted boredom/entertainment shopper. I have better ways to spend my time and money than shopping for the sake of shopping. Plus, those times when I really do need to purchase something (Easter basket goodies, Christmas) it will seem so much more enjoyable.

On a related note, I was gifted with $125 in Christmas money and I'm not sure what to spend it on. Right now I've got it socked away but I'm thinking it might be my garage sale budget for next summer.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christmas comes but once a year and hopefully so does this stomach bug.

Luckily, I'm the only one in my family felled by this nastiness.

I have been doing my normal blog reading warily- I seriously don't want to read or see anything food related- so could you all do me a favor and put a Food Warning under your headers? ; )

And I sipped the last can of gingerale this morning and that's all I really want. I've mentioned it to Hubby who hasn't done much of anything for me today at all except stay home from work, take care of the kids and pets, do the litter, and bring me ice and pop. I mean how hard could it be for the man to drag the kids to Wal-greens to fetch me a two liter? Really.

Yeah, I'm feeling snarky today.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Christmas: The Aftermath

Once again I was reminded that special thrift store toys pack just as much punch as new toys in their impermeable and nerve wracking packaged counterparts. And also- two presents would have been more than satisfactory for that special "Christmas wow".

Nonetheless, the kids were thrilled and so thankful for what was under the tree. And the fact that Grandma brought what they really wanted for Christmas (Ponyville toys and a Train Table) was just a cherry on top.
Little Guy's Thomas trains and tracks finally have a nice home! The hit of the day for him was definitely this train table. Thanks Grandma!

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Merry Christmas!

Wishing You All the Merriest of Merry Christmases!

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

The Parenting Files: Why I never get anything done... (or maybe I just blog too much)

I've donned my Santa apron, lit a vanilla spice Febreeze candle, made a to do list, and put on The Nutcracker Suite to set the mood. Meanwhile the kids who were _supposed_ to be cleaning up their toy room messes are having a crazy concert on top of the toy room table. Notice the busy little reindeer doing a crazy dance.

One room down- four more to go.

It took me all of my Fiddler on the Roof soundtrack and a quite a few kid interruptions to get through this one. We filled a laundry basket just with toys alone.

I'm not much for decorating as you can see- I could totally use a visit from The Nester.
I love that blue lamp. I found it on a curb on trash day. It was a horrid brown so I found some paint in our garage (which happened to be in my favorite color) and had hubby spray it. I found the shade at Goodwill. It's very 70's but it suits me fine. The framed doily came from a garage sale and for some reason I just really like it's pretty simplicity. Oh, and that's our .50 cent garage sale tree. It's not gorgeous but for .50 cents it sure makes my day. The tree skirt underneath is my old crazy quilt. I begged my Mom to mend it but it's just too far gone but it works great for this purpose and I get to keep my beloved quilt (which my Mom bought at a garage sale for $3).

Well, since we're being honest...

This is what I'm doing today. The whole downstairs looks like this.

At least I don't have any where to go. All Christmas shopping is bought and wrapped. All groceries are bought and put away.

I'll also be making a loaf of buttermilk bread and Russian tea cakes if I can find the time.

Monday, December 22, 2008

2009- the year of tea at Frugal Vegcafe.

Pardon me while I blog my shame.

This is what I found when I went looking for Earl Grey tea bags to make Earl Grey tea cookies.
The sad part is that I found the Earl Grey tea in the laundry room and not in the pantry with the rest of that mess. I think I have a tea drinking problem.

Guess we'll be drinking a lot of tea next year as we pare down and use up our reserves.

These cookies have a delicious tang to their buttery shortbread dough. They do burn quickly so I'd start checking them at 10 minutes. 12 minutes was way too long for my oven.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Somethings Brewing at Frugal Vegcafe and it ain't coffee

After much debate and gnashing of teeth Hubby and I have concluded that we (ok, I)need to stop buying "crap." Pantry challenges and Walgreens/Goodwill withdrawals are in our immediate future.

Next year will be a time of change for us here as we enjoy what we've already accumulated and pass on what isn't necessary.

I'll post more later as plans firm up.

Right now I'm getting ready to shower and hoping for a white Christmas.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Maybe just one more

Every year I do this. I get everything bought and wrapped for the kids and then I decide that I need one more thing. Just a little something to add to the pile.
But the truth is that what I have already is more than enough and I certainly don't want to start a tradition where the kids are burnt out by the fourth gift and there's still a giant pile to unwrap.

So, why can't I pass up the cute Little Ponies in the 50 cent bin at Goodwill? Why did I pick up the still shrink wrapped video tape that I know the kids will love? At least I have a head start on Easter baskets and birthdays.

Even buying second hand can get out of hand.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Neighbor Baskets

I just finished assembling my neighbor gift baskets for this year. I bought baskets for .99 and soap for .20 cents at Michaels after Christmas sales early in the year. I found some delicious smelling tea for $2.29 a box. I spent more than I normally like to but that tea smells so good.

The Last Batch of the Year

I've made:

Peanut Butter Cookies (from a Krusteaz mix- really good too)
Chocolate Chip (Krusteaz mix)
Sugar Cookies (homemade)
Ting a Lings (homemade- melted chocolate chips with Chinese noodles and peanuts stirred in)
Gingerbread cut outs (Betty Crocker mixes)
And finally- Peanut Butter Kisses (Pillsbury roll)

I have certainly lost my taste for cookies. And I'm not baking another one until Valentines day.
These cookies need to stretch to make four small gifts (with the drink mix), a batch for Hubby's work, some for neighbor's baskets, some to save for Santa's plates, and some for snacking on Christmas day.
Oh- looking at that list I may indeed end up making (cough- buying) more cookies.

Ok, so it's not free money- but it sure feels like it.

I used one of our Walgreens gift cards (from easy saver rebates) to buy milk and assorted last minute Christmas presents. And although it really isn't "free money" since we had to buy things to get the cards- I was happy knowing that it wouldn't show up on our credit card statement.

I found out yesterday that we need to bring a new wrapped book for a book exchange at Big Girl's School- I found a suitable one for $3 there. I also remembered that I needed a token for our mail carrier. D'Mets turtles in the 3.5 oz. box are on sale here for .99 cents. Russell Stover stocking candies are .39 cents apiece with the weekly add coupon.

Except for a trip to the gas station to get some lotto tickets (it's a family tradition- I know, I know)- I am all done shopping. Yay!

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

My Favorite Sugar Cookie Recipe

This is my favorite cookie recipe in the whole world. These aren't good for doing cut outs though because they have too much fat in them.

Ella Anderson's Best Sugar Cookies

1 cup of powdered sugar
1 cup of white granulated sugar
1 cup of butter (2 sticks- not margarine)
1 cup of oil
2 eggs
4 cups plus 4 heaping Tbs. of flour
1 tsp. of baking soda
1 tsp. of salt
1 tsp. of cream of tartar

Cream the sugar, butter and oil together. Mix dry ingredients together and add to the creamed mixture. Drop by heaping teaspoons onto greased cookie sheets. Press down slightly with the flat part of a glass dipped in sugar. Decorate with colored sugars, nuts, cherries or any other thing you like.
Bake for 10 minutes at 350 degrees until slightly golden.

This recipe came from the book "Murder in the Air" (page 335) by Ellen Hart.

Austrian Mocha Expresso

I made a double batch of this and came up with five cups of drink mix. Four cups went into gift baggies and one cup is for me. I tried a cup of it and it's pretty good.

Now all I have to do is a add a baggie of homemade cookies and teachers/sitters/helpers gifts are all done. Yay! One less thing to worry about, shop for, or do. What's more is that I enlisted Big Girls help in the assembly so she feels like she's doing a part too.

The recipe is here.

Today's Frugal Offerings

It's cold and snowy here. A perfect day to find little projects in the home.


Instead of the McDonald's cheeseburger (sans meat and replaced by a boca) and coke that I am craving ; I made pb and raisin lunch muffins from Amy Dacyczyn's universal muffin recipe and used up all of my corn meal.

I'm washing a load of laundry and dishes that I'm going to air dry. The air is so dry in our house every bit of moisture will help.

Little Guy is in a cloth diaper today.

During nap time I'll wrap a few Christmas presents and make two batches of Christmas cookies from the mixes I found in the pantry yesterday.

I'm assembling a stew from our neglected handful of crisper veggies and a veggie burger or two.
We have fresh buttermilk bread that I made yesterday to go with it.

I think I'll do a quick pantry clean and see if I have enough ingredients to make some cocoa mix for myself and a teacher gift. This recipe from The Sneaky Kitchen looks promising. They also list the directions for Cafe Vienna and Swiss Mocha. I'll just have to see what I have on hand.

Austrian Mocha Expresso
1/2 cup of instant coffee
2-1/2 cups nonfat dry milk
1/2 cup of sugar
1/4 cup baking cocoa powder

Mix well and store in a labeled container.

To serve, add two teaspoons or more to taste to a cup of steaming hot water. This blend is so delicious and smooth that people linger over it for hours. It's especially relaxing and refreshing, and so satisfying.

I made stove top potpourri with our leftover orange rinds and a stick of cinnamon.

I love these kind of days.

Pantry Stock up Buys me time

We ran out of milk yesterday. Normally that would spur a quick trip to the grocery store but I remembered that I bought a few milk cartons from the dry goods shelf at Big Lots.

Now I have a day or two to clip coupons and plan a detailed trip to the grocery store to maximize time and savings.

If you have a Save-A-Lot nearby - signing up for their Being Well Baby club gets you some decent coupons.

**We're running low on a lot of things since I've been doing scratch cooking. Our corn meal and oats are one recipe from being empty and I just finished off another bag of wheat flour by making a loaf of bread in my bread machine. Our bread supply is low too but a loaf of bread machine bread buys us a day or two out of the grocery store.
Now we can just sit around in our Rudolph jammies (.99 thrift store) and eat candy canes. No stress here.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Beauty of a New Day

I woke up to snow and ice and the news that school is cancelled today. We had a leisurely morning of pop tarts on the couch. The kids are sitting next to me in their jammies watching a Spot video.

Right now life is good- I have a full day with my kids to pick up the house, read to them, bathe them, make the two boxes of cookie mix that I found in the pantry, make a trip to the grocery store for some staples and assemble dinner. I think we're having chic patty parmesan, mashed potatoes and salad.
Chic Patty Parmesan is so easy- Take a vegetarian chic patty and coat it in spaghetti sauce on both sides- top with white cheese like mozzarella, swiss, parmesan, or provolone. Bake in a covered dish for 30 minutes at 350- we do about one patty per person. It's pricy because the patties are expensive but we all really like it.

I also intend on sipping cocoa and reading from my pile of library books during naptime. And not stressing one bit about the Christmas presents I have left unwrapped or unpurchased.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Different than last year....

My heart just isn't into Christmas this year. I'm not even done shopping or baking yet.

I've overbought all year long rather than hunting for the perfect toys at bargain prices. And I've managed to sort and fill four totes full of toys for storage (and some for donation) when I went through to find our presents for this year. I'm very disappointed in me. I won't be tallying what I spent this year because well, I don't care that much to think about it.

Oh, I'm excited for my kids and I enjoy their joy and enthusiasm for the holiday. But, I'd much rather be listening to some soothing Christmas music and sipping cocoa than wrapping another dreaded gift. And I'm missing my Grandma as I use up her vintage wrapping paper and ribbon.

As I went through the piles of new toys (with the clearance stickers still attached), I remembered an Oprah make over show where one mom had a selection of two hair bands and two mascaras to choose from for her morning routine. Of course, for the makeover all of that had to go and her quick routine was added to as her simple things were tossed in favor of hipper and more flattering beauty products. I want to envision a life where I have simple choices and no clutter filling my counters, closets or head. I want less. And all of the Christmas trappings that come with bows and ribbons are just stressing me out today.

Want to know what's on my Christmas list?

An occasional babysitting from Grandma
A back or foot rub from Hubby
A hot cup of cocoa
A bubble bath and a good novel
A good night's sleep.

What's on your Christmas list?

Saturday, December 13, 2008

If I had a band-

I would name it "Pork Thunder".

Brought to you by the Culver's Custard sign. The menu today is "Barbeque Pork Brownie Thunder."
Let's hope they don't mean together.

Thursday, December 11, 2008


No, I'm not talking about the economy although my problems certainly have something to do with our previous occupation with crap accumulation.

It's been said a million times- and it bears repeating... just because something is a bargain doesn't mean you need it.

Our appraisal lasted all of five minutes and I've spent the last 48 hours trying to clean around, organize and assemble junk I've amassed- a lot of it bargains I couldn't leave the store without. Bargains that now sit around collecting dust because guilt and the "someday" syndrome have a hold of me.

Time for Flylady again... it's going to take a lot of 27 fling boogies and fifteen minute zone cleanings before my heart doesn't pound at the thought of strangers walking through my house.

But, right now I'm going to go curl up with Little Guy and drink my Pepsi Max.

Of course, Little Guy decided to do his morning "business" two minutes before the appraiser got here and managed to fill the house with that wonderful aroma. It doesn't matter how clean your house is if it smells like a poopy diaper. Why couldn't I have the fresh baked cookies smell instead? Oh well, it's one story for Hubby to chuckle over... best intentions and all.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Cleaning Panic

I found out yesterday afternoon that an appraiser for our mortgage refinance will be here tomorrow- to take pictures of every room in our house including the basement and the garage.

Pardon me while I stress out a little bit.

But, after I'm done it will be worth it and it will be like a nice Christmas gift for myself- at least for a day until the kids are done with it.

One and a half rooms down... many more to go. I love the smell of windex in the afternoon.

Emergency car kits

This is my take on a 72 hour kit. My brother's both spend a lot of time in their vehicles for work.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

The Wallet Confidential

While I've already admitted that I'm fairly lazy when it comes to budgeting and keeping track of our financials, I thought I'd reveal the receipts/content that I have in my wallet right now.

$1.56 in change (all but an Aldi quarter are going into the kid's piggy banks right now)
$4 dollar bills
Assorted kid pictures
1 debit card
1 Discover card (which I use for most purchases because of the %back)
Tipping chart cheat sheet
Coupon for free apple dippers at McDonalds
$45 gift card for Dillards (which I've had for a long time and meant for school clothes)
AAA card (we're still debating whether or not it's worth our money)
Costco membership card (debating whether or not it's worth the kitty litter savings)
Library card (natch)
McCafe card from McDonalds with only 2 punches out
Swimming pool guest pass
Drivers license
American Express card (getting ready to cancel this- never use it)
Kohls credit card (never use it- should take it out of my wallet)
Insurance cards
$43.00 in Wal-Greens gift cards from Wal-Greens freebates
Blank check for emergencies
Book of stamps (lost then found)
Once Upon a Child Appreciation card (a store I never go to since Goodwill and Yard Sales are cheaper)
$25 Olive Garden gift card (Discover card cash back bonus)
$10 Lowes gift card (earned from clicking on mypoints emails)
Starbucks gift card with less than a dollar on it (one of the best Christmas gifts I received last year)
$20 Chilis gift card (Discover card bonus again)
A few grocery store coupons for $ off purchases

Receipts in my Wallet accumulated since November 30th:
QuikTrip (Gas)- $23.88
Office Max (Organizing Supplies)- $17.56
Dollar General (food and Christmas presents)- $25.16
QuikTrip (drinks and chips from last weekend)- $7.41
Shop-N-Save (groceries and donations)- (original total $92.05/after coupons $69.86)
Target (food, toiletries, Christmas)- (original total $65.17/after combining MRF coupons with Target coupons $40.63)
Goodwill (kids shoes, Christmas presents)-$22.00
Dinner out at the local Italian place- $20.87
Wal-Mart (Christmas presents, groceries)- (original total $51.69/after coupons $48.61)
Save-A-Lot- (last minute bread purchases for Food Day at Hubby's Work)- paid cash $5.33
Food For Less (few grocery items)- $7.29
Jiffy Lube (oil change)- $58.00 (Hubby was right- I should have driven to the dealership!)

Total= $346.60 for nine days worth of spending.

A lot of that spending was groceries and my last bit of Christmas shopping. But, still flying without a budget or a plan can obviously cause you spending problems. $7.41 for dinner snacks because Little Guy woke up from his nap and told me he wanted chips for dinner (we had other food too). Sigh.
I don't regret the dinner out though. The food is just plain good and we d0 like an occasional night out as a family.

I still have some Christmas grocery shopping to do since we're hosting this year- but I'm so ready to give my wallet a rest and eat out of our pantry after the holidays.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Starting the Christmas Baking

We have an abundance of brown bag bananas turning black.

Today I'm doubling this recipe. If it's good it will go in the freezer until Christmas tins need to be assembled.

Update: These cookies are not -good-. They have a very bready quality while not being as good as banana bread. Good thing I made a double batch! ; )

Banana Cookies Recipe


  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1 cup of sugar
  • 1 egg, room temperature
  • 1 cup of mashed bananas (about 2 ½ large bananas)
  • 1 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 2 cups of flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground mace or nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves
  • 1 cup of pecans (walnuts and chocolate chips are fine alternatives)


1 Preheat the oven to 350°F. Cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the egg and continue to beat until the mixture is light and fluffy.

2 In a bowl, mix the mashed bananas and baking soda. Let sit for 2 minutes. The baking soda will react with the acid in the bananas which in turn will give the cookies their lift and rise.

3 Mix the banana mixture into the butter mixture. Mix together the flour, salt, and spices and sift into the butter and banana mixture and mix until just combined.

4 Fold into the batter the pecans or chocolate chips if using. Drop in dollops onto parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Bake for 11-13 minutes or until nicely golden brown. Let cool on wire racks.

Makes about 30 cookies.

Gingerbread House 2008

After making my own kit last year I decided to go the ready made route and found this decent kit at Dollar General for $7. This was a bit pricier but it was more time efficient. This would make a great gift for someone and it's under ten dollars.
All of the gingerbread kits I've found at other stores are $10 and up.

Friday, December 5, 2008

A rain drop in the ocean.

It seems like every time I leave the house there is an opportunity to give to charity. Salvation Army buckets get my coins, $1 or 2 donations added onto my grocery bill, toy donations in the bins at discount stores, weekly and monthly food donations to the school food pantry, the list goes on.
And I don't mind it really. I like to do a small part somehow.

But, after thinking about how I don't budget for groceries or anything else I'm wondering how much (or how little) I am frittering away of our own funds. Hubby's job is solid right now but it might not always be the case.
And talking to my Mom on the phone while I grocery shopped I mentioned how part of my cart was going directly to the nearby food pantry. Of course, I got the standard lecture about how "welfare people" mostly need to just get off of their butts and work and many of them are doing better than her and just expect a handout. She continued on about how we don't know what may happen with the economy and I need to save that for my own family. It was hard to wrestle with that argument but my standard retort is always, "Yes, but what if they have hungry children?" And I'm sure that may the be the case in some instances but I can't imagine that the majority of people going to food banks are there because they don't want to work. My husband's parents seem to have that same view (although never espoused in quite that way). I think it's just the older generation being brought up with an "Earn what you Need" ethic. And while I don't think that's wrong, I think it's a bit short sighted and stingy. Lest I leave you with a poor impression of my parental sets, let me say that they are all very giving with people that they know.
After talking to my Mom, I briefly considered keeping the one bag I designated for donation. And then I drove to the food pantry anyway.

But, I do think I need to designate a set portion of our funds instead of willy nilly here and there.
There are so many places and people that need help, it feels overwhelming.

Any ideas, guys?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

My Budget and a few tips on what to do right now if you're hurting financially.

"Anonymous said...

would you mind disclosing what you spend each month on food and toiletries?"

To be honest- I am pretty disorganized when it comes to typing in my receipts to Quicken. Hubby gets everything done about once a month but I never know how I'm doing budget wise at any given time. I also don't have a strict budget for food or anything else. We probably need to work on this but I'm pretty particular about what I buy so we don't worry about it too much. I'll have to do my homework but I'm sure that there are other people out there who are doing much better at saving money than I am. We eat out too much and I buy too much convenience food. (Yes, I succumbed to the dreaded frozen pbj sandwiches- at least I had a coupon). I'll have to type in my receipts and tell you the sad truth.

If you are in dire straits though I do have some advice-

1. Stop buying anything that isn't absolutely necessary.

2. Survey your freezer, pantry and fridge and make a list of all food you have in the house. You probably have enough for at least a weeks worth of meals- maybe more. There are websites like
RecipeLand where you can type in ingredients to get recipes.

3. This goes with #1. Eat at home and brown bag your lunch.

4. Buy ingredients rather than ready made food. You can even make your own bread fairly easily.

5. Shop discount- Aldis, Trader Joe's, Dented Can groceries. All these are great places to find cheaper food if you know your prices. But, still- buy ingredients.

6. Don't be afraid to let people know why you aren't spending. Maybe they'll want to help you out with coupons or a dinner at their house. Maybe they have some hand me downs for your kids. There's no shame in being poor and trying to make do.

7. Cancel everything that you can't eat, doesn't keep a roof over your head, or keep you warm at night. That's right- get rid of DTV, cable, Netflix, Blockbuster, and any other expensive money sucker that drains your wallet monthly. Do you have a library card?

8. Don't throw anything out. A tablespoon of vegetables makes a great start to a freezer soup container. I started my second batch of freezer soup yesterday and today it has last night's leftover frozen veggies and the water swirled leavings from a spaghetti sauce can. When the container gets full just add some water and bouillon or stock and whatever else you have laying around to make soup. Yesterday I made cranberry walnut bread with our leftovers from Thanksgiving. It was wonderful. And old pair of jeans can be cut up to use for jean patches or to make cheap bean bags for Christmas gifts. I have done both of these things with great success. I recently cut up an old pair of pajama pants to make draft blockers. Stale bread makes great croutons, bread pudding and bread crumbs.

9. Recycle. While you're dropping off your old magazines (did you check them for coupons?) look and see if there are any good coupon inserts. I have found many clean, unused coupon inserts in our local paper recycling bin. Did you know you can even swap or ebay your extra coupons?

10. Sell your stuff. Go through your house and collect your old stuff. Ebay it or Craiglist it and get a few dollars.

A new idea- working with what I have.

What if I didn't buy any more stuff other than the Thomas Train that I told Big Girl she could pick out for her little brother?

What if I decided that what I had was enough? What if I made or scrounged gifts from what I've already bought? What if I didn't run to the grocery store for ingredients when I can use what I already have laying around? What if I decided that this year I didn't have to make cookies for every person I've ever met. What if a thank you card was enough for the mail man?

What if I vowed to stay home and wrap what I've already bought and forgot about the hubub around me?

I would certainly be less stressed and I doubt any one else would notice the difference.
Deep breath.

Feeling Sluggish This Season.

Usually, I'm raring to go and wrapping presents as soon as I get them. So far I've only wrapped two. And I'm not even done shopping yet- I think. I'm so lazy this year that I haven't even made a list of what I have and what I don't have purchased. And of course, I'm finding that last minute token gifts to teachers, kid friends, co-workers, and babysitters have been forgotten on my shopping list.

It's not that I don't love this holiday season. I do relish it. But, the hassle and obligation that seem to go with it are annoying. In some ways I almost wish I had budgetary reasons to "just send a nice card." The recession hasn't seemed to touch us yet although I am almost sure it eventually will.

Last night I found a few antique ornaments that I brought from my Grandma's house after her death. As I hung them on the tree, my heart felt so heavy and sad. I know it will pass and a in a few years those same ornaments will be bittersweet and nostalgia inspiring. But, right now I just want a simpler Christmas with less stress and more thoughtfulness. I haven't yet figured out how to get off of the obligation gift treadmill. Even though my gifts are often cost efficient, I can't help but wonder if some part of it is a hand me down from affluenza driven shopping.
Who am I making happy but enlarging my shopping list?

I'm over thinking it I know. And I do get joy out of giving small presents. This morning though I'm just feeling overwhelmed and glum.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Free Razor

Go here for a free Schick razor.

Is it a good time for you to refinance?

Mortgage-Rate Drop Sets off Refinancing Rush

Posted Nov 26, 08 8:30 AM CST
(Newser) – The biggest one-day decline in mortgage rates in 7 years set off a frenzy of refinancing yesterday, as homeowners who'd been waiting for a bargain jumped into the market. The nearly one-point decline was prompted by the Fed's $600 billion commitment to buy mortgage-backed securities, reports Bloomberg. "It's the folks who have been sitting on the sideline,” said a Bank of America exec. “They're jumping in with this news."
Economists praised the Fed’s move, which helped drop the average 30-year mortgage rate from 6.38% to about 5.5%, one saying it "may hasten the day when we finally find a bottom in housing.” Some brokers told the Wall Street Journal it was the most activity they've seen in a year. To qualify for lower rates, consumers will need a credit rating above 720 points and have at least 20% equity in their homes.

Hubby and I will be refinancing our mortgage soon because it's finally worth the closing costs and hassle. We'll shave 4 years off of our loan and save thousands of dollars while lowering our monthly payment (but we'll keep paying the same rate we're doing now). But, with every major purchase (and you should look at it that way- closing costs alone can be thousands of dollars) you should shop around for the best deal. Hubby almost took the first good deal and I persuaded him to look around a bit. That right there saves us half a percent and over a thousand dollars in closing costs.
Thank Goodness we still have good credit!
The best time to be frugal is yesterday but today is not too late to start pinching those Lincolns and Washingtons.
We're one step closer to realizing our goal of owing no money. For me, it's not so much about home ownership as it is about not owing anyone or anything.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Problem with Garage Sales and Ebay.

Once I decide to get rid of something- I want it gone from my house. The longer it stays in the house the more reason I find to hang onto it.

Yeah, I could make a few bucks here and there by selling my kids better outgrown clothing. Those barely worn Stride Rite shoes that I was dumb enough to pay retail for mock me silently from the hall closet where I stored them- in case I got the urge to ebay them. Hasn't happened for months and now I need them to go before the dust and shame can collect.

Tonight I gladly sent our Parent's As Teachers Lady off my children's unwanted wooden blocks. A month ago I railed at my husband for wanting to get rid of them. Those are the blocks that I spent hours building up so Big Girl toddler could knock them down. I have good memories of those blocks and the happy times spent with my only baby girl. My son could care less about blocks. He's a Choo Choo man and so my time with him is spent by putting train tracks together. In a few years it will probably be the wooden train tracks that I cling to tearfully.

Stuff is killing me. Today I spent half an hour searching on ebates for a good Cyber Monday deal to round out my Christmas shopping. I filled a "cart" with deals and promptly abandoned it because my heart wasn't in it. Like other people, I was thoroughly disgusted by the Black Friday tragedy at Wal-Mart. Stuff does not make you happy- in fact, the pursuit and maintenance of stuff can ruin your life.

My trash cans and recycling bin are overflowing with kid art, broken toys, and crumby plastic McDonalds/dentist/birthday bag/school party/parade trinkets. My washing machine is a dumping place for all Goodwill donations that I have found in the toy room. I won't be doing laundry until I make the drop off later in the week. I have never missed anything that I've donated or given away. And I know I won't miss those wooden blocks or anything else I've collected.

Cheap Christmas Gifts.

Since I'm not crafty I have to settle for finding good deals.

K-Mart has Hot Wheels packs and a few Barbies on sale for $2.99. This is just in time for me as I have added two children to my shopping list.

BTW, today is Cyber Monday if you haven't finished your shopping and want to stay out of the crowded stores. Ebates is doing a few double cash back deals today too.