Monday, September 28, 2009

Money Pinching Monday

Save on food:

Look back through last month's expenses. How much money of yours was spent on fast food or restaurants? Add it up. Over the course of the month, how much did you spend on just eating out?? It's quite an eye opener. I would challenge you to sit down and total up your expenses in different areas. Eating out, shopping, groceries, utilities, etc. It will give you a great idea of where it's all going, and where you could probably cut back. Mike and I aim to spend no more than about $30 a month eating out.

Drink water. Soda, tea, juice, coffee, alcohol, and sports drinks are not cheap. They're not good for you either. Do your body and wallet a favor, drink water or milk, and leave it at that. Save the other drinks for special occasions. All you really need is water. Seriously. How many different drinks do you have in your fridge right now?

I used to go to the grocery store with a few items on a list, and a couple meal plans in my head. It was very aggravating to still have a high grocery bill, and not that many meals out of it. I have since learned that the biggest way to save money on groceries is to plan out your meals for two weeks. (By the way, I hate doing this, but it saves a LOT of money) I sit down, write out 8-10 meals, complete with what I want to serve with it. I go through this list and figure out what ingredients I have and still need, then create my grocery list. (including on that list, the basic essentials of bread, milk, eggs, cereal, yogurt, etc...things we use every day) This process used to take me a long time to do, but now it takes about 10 minutes. When you get into this habit, it goes quickly. Before I go to the store, I write out the meals on my big wall calendar. I plan it out by first using things that spoil quickly. Also by planning it out, I won't forget to use anything that just might get shoved in the back of the freezer.

The most expensive items on my grocery bill are meats. So I have learned to buy them in bulk and freeze them. I buy my 90% lean ground beef in bulk at SAM'S club. It is a couple dollars cheaper by the pound. I get over 8 lbs for only $20! (It would be at least twice that price at a regular grocery store for 90% lean) When I get home, I divide it into 1 lb servings. I wrap it up in wax paper (after rolling them into balls and flattening them *think giant hamburgers*--easier to thaw later) and put them in a freezer bag. Then they go in the freezer. I try to look ahead on my calendar, so if I need to use ground beef for dinner the next day, I take it out 24 hours in advance. Otherwise I have to use the microwave to thaw it out (and I just hate doing that...so time consuming!)

I buy a lot of other things of ours in bulk. All of our paper products, (toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues) dog food, cleaning products, vitamins, toiletries, frozen foods, etc.

Coupon clipping and sale shopping is another great way to save on groceries. I always look through our coupons and store flyers to try to plan meals around what I can get for cheap. There are many people who are very into 'couponing,' and I'm not one of them. I use them when I can, but don't spend a lot of time hunting down deals. This is something I've looked into, but never had the patience for. Although I am started to get interested in CVS-ing. We are finally getting one near our house, and I have been really impressed with some luck a few friends of mine have had with this. I'll have to learn about it.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

MawMaw & PawPaw Go Cruising

My parents are on a cruise this week, and had dinner with us the night before they left. They told Natalie they were getting on an airplane, then getting on a big boat the next day, and going far away. Natalie spent the next hour telling us she wanted to go far away too with MawMaw & PawPaw.

The next morning, Mom called right after they boarded their plane. I told Natalie a little while later that MawMaw and PawPaw are in an airplane, flying in the sky!!

Natalie: In the sky? On an airplane!?
Me: Yep! (busy in the kitchen)

A few minutes later, I hear:

Natalie: I don't see them, Monnie! They're not in the sky!

This is what I walked in the living room to find her doing:

Pavlov's Mike and Sarah's dog

Instead of a bell indicating food, and creating a salivating response...

Mike's ring-tone on my phone indicates Mike will walk through the door any second, creating a tense/on guard response in Cole.

This was completely unintentional classical conditioning.

This all started when Natalie was a baby and Mike worked evenings. Mike would walk through the door around 1AM every morning, and Cole would growl, howl, and bark every time. It was madness, we were sick of it, but didn't want to teach him NOT to bark if someone walks in our home unannounced. So Mike started calling my phone when he pulled on our street, and I would meet him at the door with Cole at my side.

Mike STILL calls when he gets home (if he's out during the day) and Cole has learned that when he hears the song "Sugar Pie Honey Bunch" (my fantastic ring-tone for Mike) that Mike will walk in the door any second. Thus creating, what we call, Cole's "on guard" status.

This is what he looks like when calm:


This is what he looks like when "on guard" right after Mike called (he's looking at the front door):


Even when Mike just calls to say "hi"...Cole will expect him to be here any minute. If Mike doesn't come home right away, Cole will start crying, barking at noises, and being even more obnoxious than usual.

Oh, and just in case you're curious, this is what Cole looks like when he's being ornery!! (His ears are waaay back)

Just seconds after I snapped this picture, he put his paws on my shoulder and snuffed in my ear!!

Stubborn

When our daughter decides against something (for instance: smiling for a picture) it's quite difficult to change her mind.


This is was good as we were going to get:

Love that little smirk!

Monday, September 21, 2009

Money Pinching Monday

Save on Utilities:

Turn off lights when leave the room. Teach your kids to do this as well.

When you go to bed, turn off your computer.

Don't sleep with your TV on.

If you don't have a lot of extra wiggle room in your budget, I would recommend budget-billing your electric and gas utilities.

In the winter time, use your oven to help cook meals on the bitter cold days. Turn your thermostat down at night, and use electric blankets. I use a safety, energy star heater in Natalie's room b/c she won't stay under the covers! (I also put it directly under the smoke detector just in case it isn't as "safe" as they say--I'm just paranoid like that.) The BIGGEST way to heat our bedrooms in the winter, is WARM mist humidifiers. It keeps the dry skin and noses away, PLUS it keeps our bedrooms so much warmer than the rest of the house. (So I can turn down the thermostat at night and save $$)

I don't have a working fireplace, but an electric one that takes the chill away on bitter days. However, I've heard that a real fireplace actually creates a lot of heat loss through the chimney! That surprised me! The wood burning stoves, (more specifically, the pellet burning stoves) are BY FAR the most energy efficient way to heat a home. If you have one, you know what I'm talking about.

In the summer, cook with your oven only when you must, and avoid using it the hottest days of the year. Employ your slow-cooker, steamer, and stove top. Microwave if you must...that's a whole other topic! Run your dishwasher at night, and do laundry in the evenings or early mornings...if you're saint to get up that early. Close your blinds on the windows that have direct sunlight on them, and open them when they're shaded.

I tried a little experiment this summer, and I have seen a big drop in our utility bills as a result.
First, install ceiling fans in the rooms you spent a lot of time in. For us, it's our living room, kitchen, and bedroom. Turn the temp up on your thermostat, and turn on your ceiling fans. I have kept our thermostat at 78 degrees this entire summer with the fans on, and even my husband (the human furnace) has felt comfortable in our house. The only time I turn down the thermostat is when I'm doing housework. I have noticed our utility bill drop over $20 dollars a MONTH this summer because of this change. That's impressive to me...but the again, I get a thrill out of saving money.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Tank Life

When I was in college, I enjoyed keeping an aquarium. One of my favorite little critters in there was an albino African clawed frog. (albino water frog) They stay in the water with the other fish and are very easy to care for. This frog (Kermit) got huge, 3-4 inches, croaked at night, ate all my other nice fish, and tried escaping from his home a few times. We had a love-hate relationship, but he was more entertaining than burdensome. When Mike and I moved here several years ago, I didn't want to mess with moving the aquarium, so we gave all my fish (and Kermit) away. I still wish I would have kept him.

Personally, I don't care for small fish tanks...they are much harder to care for. The bigger the aquarium, the more self-sufficient it is. I have made an exception for Natalie and have a smaller aquarium for her. It's only 3 gallons, but with the filter system, I shouldn't have to do much to clean it. It has been set up for over a week now, and this morning, I told her we could finally go get her a frog. She was so excited!!

We went to the store, (a specialty fish/reptile store) and the first thing I saw when I walked in was the clerk misting a snake that was very agitated. Next to him was a tarantula about half the size of my foot. *shudder* *shudder* Cursing myself for only wearing flip flops, I walked into the store to find our frog. We bought one, and he is TINY, about the size of my thumb nail!

So now he is in his new home, and Natalie won't nap because she's too excited. When nap time sit-and-watch-the-frog time is over, I'll post a picture of our new critter. Oh and I need name suggestions!

*UPDATED* Here he is:

Money Pinching Monday

I have decided to start a weekly entry on our blog about how we save money. We are no experts, but we have learned a LOT the hard way, and some things the easy way through wise counsel of others. Others have asked me here and there how we got out of debt, and how we're building wealth. Again, no experts here, but I love penny-pinching. Some call it cheap, I think "thrifty" sounds nicer. :) I will start little-by-little right here.

We'll start with the BIGGEST advice I can give anyone: ditch your credit cards! Seriously. Every single one of them! Credit cards are the biggest drain on your finances. Know why? Because it's so easy to tell yourself, "oh I pay them off at the end of every month." However, what happens if a major expense comes up, or someone loses a job and then you can't pay the total amt due? That's a slippery slope I don't want to be anywhere around.

We hate credit cards with a passion! For so long, we'd pay on them every month, and then b/c that took such a chunk out of the paycheck, we'd have to go back to the credit card to buy groceries and gas. Next month, same cycle. SO frustrating! They had us, and we hated it!

Almost every business takes debit cards now. Use a debit card. Debit=CASH. There was only one instance where a credit card number was needed and I explained to the person that we don't do credit. He told me, "everyone needs a credit card for emergencies" He was serious!! I replied, "why would you need a credit card when you have a padded savings account??" Your SAVINGS account is for emergencies. Credit cards are for keeping people in debt.

If you are interested in getting out of debt, go buy Dave Ramsey's book, The Total Money Makeover. I hope it rocks your world like it did ours.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Magazine

If there are any women out there that would love a suggestion for a Christian magazine, I have one for you.

Above Rubies
http://www.aboverubies.org

Go to this website and subscribe to their magazine. It is free. They work from donations and aim to print quarterly. Their ministry is "to encourage women in their high calling as wives, mothers, and homemakers." Encourage it does! I started receiving this magazine about 3 years ago. I have saved almost every issue, and reread them often.

I was reading their latest issue last night, and was amazed (yet again) with how God speaks to my heart. I will have to make another post about this topic...there is so much more to it. For now, I wanted to share a wonderful magazine suggestion.