Friday, January 7, 2011

Frugal Friday - Living Well

I've been struggling all morning long trying to think what I've done this week that was frugal.  It's been one of those weeks where we've mostly been at home but we've laid out a sum of money as well.  Let's just go back to last Saturday and see what I can remember about the week behind me.

Saturday:  We went to synagogue...and there's a savings I'd forgotten all about.  Our synagogue has moved into a new home, one that is some 20 miles closer to home for us.  We'll save both time and money (in the form of gasoline)  this year traveling to synagogue.  So that is a huge bonus for the year ahead! 

Sunday:  We stayed home all day long.  We didn't even go into town to get the Sunday paper.  I asked Chance if he wanted one but we're currently not having fun with the NY Times crossword and frankly buying the paper locally is hardly worth the cost because the coupons are just not put in.  I knew Mama would save her coupons for me and after I picked them up this week I was doubly glad we hadn't paid for the paper, because the coupon 'flyers' were all mail order stuff and only a coupon or two for items I'd never use for any reason.

Our meal Sunday was a very frugal one:  a big pot of Poultry Stew with dumplings.  I made the stew from the frozen Thanksgiving and Christmas carcasses, plus the root ends and tops of celery, onions and carrots.  Oh it was good, too, on that cold day to have such a warming and hearty meal.

I spent the afternoon being productive.  I created an art project for my soon to be creative space from advertisements, glue glitter and scrapbook paper.  I need a nice frame for it...

I worked out our budget, deciding to set it up quarterly.

I moved money that was 'extra' from checking to savings so we wouldn't be tempted to spend unnecessarily.

Then I sorted coupons and clipped new ones (from the previous week).

Supper was a frozen pizza bought on sale earlier in the week.  I set aside leftovers for Chance's work week lunch.

Monday:  I decided to get started on the decluttering of the file cabinet, and file all those important papers I'd postponed putting in their proper place.  Now the file drawer is nice and neat and I can easily lay my hands up on necessary paperwork in a matter of moments.  The savings of aggravation and frustration is worthwhile, alone.  That I also happened to come across a maintenance guide for Chance's guitar was a bonus and helped him get it properly tuned and some maintenance that was needed done.  His guitars are an investment and we do need to maintain them well.

We were taken out for dinner by Mama and ate a good meal with plenty of vegetables.  We opted for an easy supper of Grilled cheese sandwiches and sliced apples

Ran a load of dishes this evening.  I'm nearly out of dishwasher detergent.  I turned the bottle upside down so the remaining liquid would be at the top of the squeeze bottle.

We finished off a box of cereal this morning for our breakfast.  I've found those cereal box liners are sturdy pieces of  paper, perfect for subbing for waxed paper over rising bread dough or to top off a bowl (I use a rubber band to hold in place).  I reserve the boxed waxed paper for cakebaking.

I made yogurt last week and for the second time it was very very thin stuff...but I will not waste it!  I use it instead of milk over my cereal and find it is tasty, if thin.  I'm thinking the wee crockpot may not be heating properly anymore.  I've a new one in the box in the shed that we bought last year for $5 after Christmas.  I'll bring it in the house and try using that one next time I make yogurt.  (I'm using fresh yogurt so have no clue why it oughtn't be working other than the issue of heating/cooling...of course a second possibility is that the milk is cooling off too quickly in my slightly chilly kitchen). 

Tuesday:  Monday I knew my bread supply was low and I was almost out of milk.  Plans had been to pick those items up the day before while we were out but I decided to say nothing about it.  After all, we weren't yet completely out and I might well find it lasted longer than I supposed.

Tuesday we went into town and though Chance offered to go by the grocery I decided to bypass it again.  I was supposed to go out with Mama Wednesday and why not just do it then, rather than make a special stop?  I found rolls in the freezer to serve as bread for Chance's work lunch sandwich and had just enough milk to drink a glass that night. 

Supper this night was frugal, too:  leftover poultry stew (no dumplings) with a handful of rice tossed in as it simmered on the burner.

Wednesday:  I eyed the clothes basket thinking I'd do laundry, but Chance likes to wash clothes on Thursday evening, so he has a fresh couple of uniforms for the weekend.  I decided to hold off and let the clothes wait. 

Mama called to cancel our day...and I had to go into town to buy bread and milk.  I kept the trip into the store short and sweet, stuck to the perimeters of the store and bought what I went in for, plus two packets of lean beef short ribs, marked down to a great bargain price.  The short ribs went into the freezer for future use.  I spent just $10, stocking up on bread (sale priced) and opting for the marked down milk whose sale by day was that day.

I continued decluttering that file drawer...and found sixty brand new pens, still in packets.  I also found about a dozen glue sticks (the sort that are wonderful for paper projects), a set of magnetic paper dolls that will go to synagogue with me for a little girl to play with while service is ongoing, and two boxes of crayons, also synagogue bound.  And there's a box of stationery cards that will do nicely for thank you notes (as opposed to those pricey but nice notes I was tempted to buy at Target).

Cleaned the laundry area up nicely and turned the old laundry detergent bottle upside down to drain well.  There was still enough detergent to do two loads of clothes in that bottle!  I had no idea, when I contemplated tossing it there was that much in the bottle.  Glad my frugal nature won out. 

Decided we were just ruining the wall where I'd hung the little ironing board, because we were constantly bumping the ironing board and knocking it off.  This caused a lot of stress on the nail used and was making the hold a little bigger each time we rehung it.  I moved the nail to a wall within easy reach but out of our way. 

Took the new bottle's lid and put a rubber band around it at the fill line for a regular load.  I would say I've no idea why the manufacturer doesn't make the lines more visible, but we already know why don't we?  So we'll over-use the product and buy more!  Ha.  I've found it's just easier to mark it so I can see it right away.  No overuse for us.

I gathered up all the VHS tapes except for a very favorite few and am sending them off to the church thrift store for donation.  I kept only those tapes that were Chance's (he needs to do his own bit of sorting if he doesn't want to keep them) and the ones I'd most like to replace with DVDs for myself.  I now have one whole section of the entertainment center empty.  Gracious....Organzing can really create new space in a home can't it?  And space equals money in any home...Just ask those folks that have to buy new storage pieces or add on a room.

By the way, that sorting of the VHS led to sorting my few DVDs.  I happened to 'find' that I had four DVDs that replaced four of the VHS I thought I needed to save.  I saved myself quite a bit of money by organizing those DVDs, and made the donation to the church thrift store a wee bit heavier courtesy those four VHS tapes going into the donation bag.

Out with Mama today, I purchase a cooling pad for my computer (see A Year of Savings Post)...That was part of my Christmas gift money used.

While out shopping I wandered down an aisle behind Mama and discovered chocolate candy on sale.  12 ounce packages of certain candies were 2/$5.  I knew that was a decent sale but not until I glanced at the cost of the 24 ounce package did I realize how good.  The bigger bags were $8.49 each!  I decided it was worthwhile to stock up on the chocolate, since I know we're nearing the end of our home supply.

Remember that money moved to savings on Sunday?  So glad I did that.  Chance had to replace the tires on his car and that money covered nearly the whole cost!  We knew he needed new tires, had even gone out Tuesday to get them with no luck, but we had no clue the cost of them.  It felt good to know we'd set that money aside.  That's why we save!

The cold north wind pushed back into the state.  I've found a sort of formula for determining when to use electric heat and when to use our propane.  I set the thermostat on the heat pump in the mornings and turn on the gas heat.  When the electric heat stops coming on every few minutes I know it's time to turn down the gas.  When the heat pump stops coming on more than once an hour, I turn off the gas heater.  Even though we have a thermometer in the living room I find the method of listening for how much the electric heat is coming on as the best guide of how comfortable the house will be.

Called to see why a service charge was attached to an account.  I didn't get it remanded but I did discover a rule we weren't told last year when we nearly closed out the account and the clerk suggested we not do so.  A certain balance level is required to avoid the charges.  It was only a few dollars, but we would have been better to close out the account and opened a new one than to leave this one with that lower balance for the two short weeks it stayed at that level.  Fees were accessed for the full quarter on the account, not just the one month the balance dwindled.  Now I know the minimum we'll be sure to keep the account up to that level at all  times.

I've been doing it for weeks now: wandering down the magazine aisles gazing wistfully at the glossy covers.  Truth is the one magazine I'd like to read isn't available.  I'm so glad I keep talking myself out of picking up others I've bought in the past and found unsatisfactory for the price.  Instead I spotted the new Jan Karon book which I'd promised myself I'd buy this month.  Did so and got a discounted price making it cost about what two of those glossy magazine issues cost and used my Christmas cash to treat myself, so no harm to our budget either.

Chance mentioned that rice is now on the list of expected items to rise in price this year.  When he asked if we had a nice stockpile, I felt very pleased to report that we did, thanks to a sale last grocery day.  I shall look for another sale or two on that and flour, sugar, cornmeal and coffee, all staples expected to rise in costs over the coming year which we can easily and safely store in bulk.

Priced magazine files for the third time.  There's no doubt that I get far better service from my contact paper covered cereal boxes for far far less a price.  I decided that I shall just begin to save those cereal boxes to use once more.  It may take a little time to save them up, but goodness!  I'll save loads of money doing it myself.

Friday:  Gathering stuff to go out to my shed, I found Kay left her old lamp in her closet.  I exchanged it for the one in the laundry area (which had no light source.  We were told codes wouldn't allow them to put on in that space but it was really needed).  The new lamp is taller which allows better use of the space atop the dryer and allows more light in the space.

Cleared out the gift drawer of things that just didn't go to the intended recipients due to change in tastes etc.  Coloring books will go to synagogue for the children, a set of knives will be reserved for a soon to be married couple, two items were put into use in our own home, another box of stationery went over to the desk.  With my resolution to write family members it will be put into use as well.  And a few things will be donated.  After all was done, I had three quarters of an empty drawer.  I moved all my winter sweaters into that drawer. 

Washed a load of dishes and discovered that draining the bottle allotted me enough for two loads from that seemingly empty bottle.   

Mending:  I've spent the week mending.  Sewing on buttons, repairing hems and seams.  I had no idea when I picked up one of Chance's workshirts this week and noticed a tiny tear in the seam that I'd find so many opportunities this week to employ needle and thread.  Repaired three work shirts, two pairs of pants and one raincoat.  I think all our clothes are now in good order and will hopefully give us service a good bit longer for those few minutes of time.

Living Well

One of my favorite things about winter:  Bare tree limbs that allow me a clear view to the horizon at sunset.  Winter makes up for the lack of color with beautiful sunrises and sunsets.  Other things I love about this season:  clear cold air and bright blue skies swept free of clouds by gusty winds; sheltering indoors with a lit fire and a good movie on rainy dreary days;  a cup of coffee on the front porch in the late afternoon, wrapped in a throw as the dogs and cat eat their supper;  spooning under the quilt at night; the pleasure of washing dishes which warms hands and steams the window above the sink;  soups and stews; hot cocoa.

There's a balance to strike between taking on too much and being downright selfish in taking on nothing at all.  I caught myself twice this week before making an impulsive offer of help that would have severely taxed my time and strength.  But I was able to offer help at least twice in situations where it really counted the most.  I don't always manage that balance and I'm mindful enough of it at present to want to hold on to this knowledge.

Here we are at Friday once again and this New Year is now a full week old.  So far I've done rather well working with my resolutions.  But then the first week is always the easiest, isn't it?  It's making those resolutions stick through weeks 2 and 3 and then through till March and past July that really causes the frustration.   By the end of September we suddenly realize that we'd forgotten all about them and should dust them off and try again, but we forget in just a couple of days time until December looms and suddenly we feel regret over the time we wasted in the year that's gone before.  Oh I know all about it, that's why I try to stay atop my resolutions each year by setting monthly goals.  Even so, one or two or four will be forgotten.  Still I'd rather accomplish 80% of what I hoped to do than discover I'd managed only 1% in December.

There's something about knowing the house is well organized under the surface as well as out in the open where it can be seen that gives me a great deal of satisfaction.  And there's something about knowing there's a little open space that makes me breathe easier...Don't you find it so, as well?

Things I'm grateful for this week:
Not going out in the rain and cold.
Marking items off my lists.
Nightly prayer time with my husband.
Time to create.
Bible study in the mornings with the revelations that come from reading.
Deep conversations with my husband.
Friends who call with invitations to dinner.
Shelter on a windy bright winter's day.
The puddle mid-driveway where the birds come twice a day to drink and bathe.
Hot showers on cold mornings.
A feeling of abundance.
Buds forming on the trees, preparing for the next season.
Seasonal tasks.
Safe arrivals and joy in reunions.
The drone of a tractor in the field.
Leaves scampering across the lawn, running from the wind.


Tracy said...

Wow, Terri, you do such a great job at saving money! Inspiring!

Rhonda said...

I hope you like the new Jan Karon book as much as we did. There are not many magazines I like anymore either. I do like Country Living that Jimmy gets me with his coke points. My mom had the Mary Jane Farm Girls magazine and I like it but it does not seem to available to just buy anywhere. when I want to read magazine type stuff anymore, I just read good blogs, esp. yours!

Penny Ann said...

@Rhonda I love Country Living, but liked Country Home even more. They stopped publishing that then put out a quarterly issue and I've not seen it since. Mary Jane's Farm magazine is a beauty. I can't buy it from the rack anywhere about here. I think though I'm going to pretty much stick with my real faves: CL and BHG I get with Coke rewards points and I like Southern Living but am not too certain of this new format they started with the January issue. We'll see on that. Otherwise I think I'd rather buy vintage homemaking and women's magazines from the '30's 40's and '50's and re-read them.