Aug 062012
 


Okay, ladies… And gents, I suppose. Do we have any gents?

Anyhow, I need your help!

I’d like to test out a few different recipes for homemade cleaning and hygiene products, and review them here.

Please share the recipe and/or link to your favorites to get the ball rolling:

  • Laundry Soap
  • Dishwasher Soap
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant

Thank you!

May 242012
 

As I mentioned in my Envelope Budgeting post, we’re on a quest to make another step forward in our finances.

We have been having success with our efforts to reduce waste, reduce our utility bills, reduce our automobile costs (including gas), and so forth. But we haven’t actually made

A Budget

Well thanks to the Mvelopes free account (mentioned in the post above), we’re hard at work making that a reality. We’re setting up digital envelopes for all our financial categories, to track every penny and keep ourselves in line.

And do you know what else I did last week?

When I (well, the kids and I, of course) went shopping on Thursday (Farmer’s Market day, so we schedule around that), I went to the bank as usual. But instead of getting out just what cash I needed for the Farmer’s Market (for our milk, eggs, and produce), I withdrew the entire two-week grocery budget.

Since Wolf gets paid every other week, I am running budgeting on two week cycles.

Not everything has a physical cash envelope, but groceries seemed an obvious place to start.

And it does feel different, shopping with cash. I’m more reluctant to part with each bill. And knowing how much is left in that envelope is a “hard stop” – unlike the debit card, where there’s such an ease of “well it’s just a little bit…”

What else is really better with a cash envelope over a digital one?

Image from NoThirst, a website I know nothing else about.

May 042012
 

Most people have at least heard of an “envelope budgeting” system.

It’s been around pretty much since envelopes were invented, probably, and has been popularized by Dave Ramsey.

You can stash your cash in regular paper envelopes, or you can pick up something like this nifty cloth envelope set I found on Etsy.

There are also various online budgeting programs to help track spending. The one that most closely mirrors this system, though, is Mvelopes.

I’ve wanted to try using Mvelopes for a while now, but couldn’t get past the idea of paying a monthly fee. (Their “free version” is so limited as to be pointless).

But the wise and wonderful Mary Hunt of Debt Proof Living got together with the Mvelopes folks to offer a totally free basic account. Read about it on the Debt Proof Living Blog.

It still has limits, and they still offer the upgrade to the Premium membership – but this is a fully functional account. It even includes a “jump start” phone coaching session to help you get started.

This is not a sponsored post, and I have no affiliate interest in any of the products mentioned. Just sharing a good deal I found on a tool I am beginning to use myself!

Nov 262011
 

A Facebook conversation of a week or so ago got me thinking again about the mindset of frugality.

Not just the practice. But where your head is.

I had asked online for a recipe for baked beans. I said my family was used to the canned variety, so I was hoping to find one with a somewhat similar flavor from which to start.

One friend noted that Bush’s doesn’t have HFCS (knowing that would be a key issue for me), and that “cost would only be an issue if you were feeding an army.”

Now, I do understand her point - canned baked beans aren’t very expensive.

But what she said is frighting — essentially that the savings doesn’t matter, because it’s small.

The cost always matters.

I wish I could remember where it was that I first read something that really clarified this for me (maybe one of you can help). I’m pretty sure it was either Everyday Cheapskate (Mary Hunt) or Tightwad Gazette.

She was talking about the dangerous habit that people have of thoughtlessly putting a second “regular” stamp on a letter weighing over an ounce, or putting a letter stamp on a postcard.

It’s a slippery slope, if you do that and casually say, “It doesn’t matter, it’s just a few cents.”

Once you have allowed that mindset to take root, it’s easy for it to spread. A few cents here, a few cents there. A few cents a gallon… which adds up to more than a dollar, but that’s not so bad. A dollar here, a dollar there…

And what about this:

His lord said to him, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.”
~ Matthew 25:21

My point here is not that canned baked beans are cost prohibitive.

There are times when other considerations do outweigh the cost. Not just in this case, but overall, it may be a question of storage, or convenience, or nutrition, or availability, or a cost trade-off with something else, or preparation costs, or even taste preference.

Today you may choose to put a second regular letter stamp on that heavy card, carefully weighing the fact that a trip to the Post Office will use more gas than that costs, and the fact that the card needs to be mailed immediately so we don’t miss Grandma’s birthday. I have no problem with that. Tell Grandma “Happy Birthday,” and put second-ounce stamps on the shopping list for next time you’re out.

You may not always choose the absolute cheapest option.

But that’s making a choice.

It’s very different than saying it doesn’t matter.

.

(Coin image is from Life Frameworks, a website I know nothing about. Stamp image from USPS.com).

Nov 072011
 

This Monday is not a profile, since I have (sadly!) run out of modest ladies willing to share their testimony with you. If you know someone, please let me know!

Today I want to share my personal clothing dilemma with you. Sounds exciting, eh? It isn’t “about modesty” necessarily, just about my adventures with modest dressing.

As you probably know, I was not raised dressing in the modest manner I do now. Nor have we had an excess of money at any point in our marriage, whith which I could just run out and buy a whole new wardrobe (even if I wanted to).

So, what happened, was a gradual transition.

I picked up a skirt off the department store clearance rack. I picked up a skirt at a thrift store.

I bought a couple of men’s short-sleeved button-down shirts at a discount store. The fact they are “men’s garments” here seemed to weigh less heavily than the fact that the “women’s” styles available all had plunging necklines, or a too-fitted cut, or other similar issues.

Every once in a while (birthday, etc.), I would be able to order an item from a WAHM online shop that made modest clothes to order. A jumper here, a skirt there…

And headcoverings happened the same way. A couple purchased here and there, a couple won on blogs and giveaways, a couple of gifts.

But the end result is quite a hodgepodge of, well, themes.

Ideally, I’d like to have the most combinations and options available from the relatively small number of items I might have in my closet.

Although this photo (from Wardrobe 911)doesn’t match my modesty choices entirely, it gives you a good visual:

All three bottoms … go with all four tops … go with both jackets.

With just the seven base pieces, you have twelve outfits (plus the jacket options). And you’d never have the last clean top not match the bottom you wanted to wear.

My current wardrobe, however, doesn’t work that way. (I’m leaving the “church clothes” and “serious work clothes” out of the equation, since they don’t need to be mixed and matched in).

I have:

Plain jumper (brown)
Three patterned jumpers
Denim skirt
Denim skirt with “pinstripe” pattern

That’s plenty of bottoms, really. But then there’s the tops:

White blouse – goes with anything
Tan blouse – goes with anything
Green blouse – goes with plain jumper, one pattern jumper, both denim skirts
Green/white check blouse – goes with plain jumper, plain denim skirt
Greenish “Hawaiian Shirt” – goes with plain jumper, plain denim skirt

Okay, that’s still a pretty good setup, if maybe not “ideal”.

Then there’s the headcoverings.

Now, it’s true that I could just wear a white one, and it would go with everything. But I have some other cute ones that I’d really like to wear!

The trouble is – they don’t play well with others.

I have a really neat headcovering from Sowers of Hope that is a brown and navy print on white. (The one pictured is from their shop; not mine, but to give you an idea how the bold prints can look).

So, I can’t wear it with anything patterned. That leaves out all the bottoms except the one plain jumper and one plain denim skirt (I could probably get away with the pinstriped denim) — and then only if worn with a plain top in a coordinating color. Hm.

And there’s that adorable tichel I have that’s tan with dark brown stars. I’ve only worn it a couple of times, since it only really seems to work with the brown jumper and white blouse.

Too many patterns!

The easiest coordination system would be with no patterns at all, but that could get a little dull.

Maybe the answer is to only have one category patterned – tops, bottoms, or headcoverings. If everything in the other two categories was solid colored, that would make for a lot more combination options.

What do you think? What do you do?

Oct 232011
 

There are a lot of things that people consider to be things they “NEED” in their life, even though they will admit that they fall under the label of “luxuries” in a budget.

If you’re trimming down, most people know that they could / should / will be advised to give up or cut back on:

  • Cable TV
  • Expensive cell phone plan
  • Starbucks (or comparable food / drink “habit”)
  • Smoking (ick!)
  • Owning too many vehicles / too new, costly, or gas-guzzling vehicle(s)
  • Eating out – both fast-food, and also “nice” sit down
  • Entertainment – going to the movies, concerts, casinos, sporting events, etc.
  • Shopping issues: shopping for shopping’s sake, too much trendy clothing, expensive jewelry, etc.

But most of the people I know aren’t really those type of people.

We’ve all taken steps to be good stewards, and try to avoid frivolous wastes of money.

So many people are still struggling, though. The economy is bad, jobs are hard to come by, and choosing to live on one income can be really hard.

I wonder how many people have thought a step further about ways to live on less.

Cutting coupons is a popular way people think they can cut their grocery bill… But I’ve begun to wonder about it on several levels.

Coupons are primarily focused on processed foods. There are lots of coupons for frozen meals, canned meals, sugar cereal, all those “snack foods”, sodas and other packaged drinks, and so on.

This is not the most healthy food you can eat. Most of the food items are not things that I feed my family – they contain excessive salt, preservatives, artificial colors, artificial sweeteners, and furthermore suffer greatly from a lack of true food value.

But aside from that… That stuff is expensive!!

I know that hard-core couponers can often pick things up free, or very cheaply, when a good deal comes around.

Other times, though? If that’s the foods you buy, and that’s what your family eats, then that’s going to be what you’re buying all the time. Getting you “hooked” on their product is, of course, why manufacturers offer the coupons in the first place.

And most people don’t coupon to the “extreme” level – they just use the coupons they have, when they have them, and otherwise buy what they want.

When I look in the cupboard of someone who says she’s behind on her bills and can’t make ends meet, it saddens me to see commercial “toddler puff snacks,” fruit chewy big-kid snacks, fruit punch drink pouches, and individual plastic-wrapped cake-like desserts.

Think about it:

Is processed food a hidden “luxury item” in your budget?

Just one more advantage of a simple, frugal, “slow food” lifestyle.

You’d think God knew what He was doing when He invented the stuff, or something!

Oct 152011
 


Most of you probably have heard of these by now, but I thought I’d toss them out there in case anyone isn’t using them yet.

There are a number of ways to save money while making the purchases you were planning to make anyway. You just click through to one of these sites, search for the place you want to shop, then click their link to go there – while they track your purchase and give you a rebate.

It may only be a few cents here and there. It doesn’t sounds like a lot, especially if you’re like me and don’t shop for a lot of “consumer goods”. But it does add up over time. So, since none of these cost anything, why would you NOT want to get a little something back?

Shop At Home

Shop At Home is the site I use most – it just seems to overlap best with where I shop online.

It’s free, of course, plus you get a $5 bonus if you make your first purchase through them within 60 days of joining.

EBates

EBates also sometimes runs a ‘$5 bonus with your first purchase’ type offer, but they do not seem to be doing so right now.

If you have the time and patience, you should always check both ShopAtHome and EBates – there are some stores that are on one but not the other, and some stores that are on both sites but with differing rebate percentages.

UPromise

There are two ways to use UPromise:

1. You can sign up to register a UPromise account for your child. Then shopping through their site posts a “rebate” (like the ones above) directly into a college savings account for your child, rather than sending you a check. (Click Here to access their signup form)

The big advantage of this, and the way I use UPromise most, is that you can also register your credit cards and grocery loyalty cards with them, and earn rebates on participating off-line purchases, as well.

2. You can receive a lot of great coupons and offers through their site, without any signup – but also without any back-end rebate. (Click Here to access the Guest Shopping page)

Disclaimer: Some of the links above are personalized links that will generate a small referral bonus for me if you use them. Thank you!

Oct 112011
 


I wish I’d taken pictures of the bulk food order we picked up from the LDS Cannery in Slidell last week…

It was on this big flat cart, like you use at Lowe’s, and it totally filled up the back of my Tahoe (that was before Clyde – wait, you didn’t read the story about Clyde??).

As you can see, R.T. enjoys the wheat berries straight out of the bag!

All in all, we got:

  • 3 bags of wheat (25 lbs. each)
  • 1 bag of black beans
  • 1 bag of white beans (great northern)
  • 1 bag of sugar
  • 1 bag of oats
  • 1 box of potato flakes
  • 1 box of rice
  • 1 box of spaghetti
  • 1 box of macaroni
  • 1 box of powdered milk
  • Plus a package of 100 Oxygen Absorbers to package with the food for storage


Naturally, we got home to discover that we didn’t have enough of the 5-gallon buckets accumulated to store it all! It’s been slow going getting them from the Commissary bakery, but I have a couple of other places to try now, so maybe we can get caught up.

I’ve also gotten in with a group of ladies on an order for combined shipping, to get some Gamma Lids – that will resolve my issues with a couple of buckets I have that are lidless, as well as making life easier in general. (They snap on with a gasket like the regular lids, then the center part screws open (but seals tight) for access).

That’s a lot of supplies! Time to organize the “pantry” space in the back hall closet…

Aug 192011
 


I’m once again going to sing the praises of Hillbilly Creations

Although her Etsy store usually has a cute market tote or two, and sometimes other fun things, my favorite things are all “customs” she’s created just for me.

In my last “batch” of sending her goodies to upcycle, she made an adorable purse for Jewel. (You can read the full review, and see photos of the rest of the lovely thing she made – HERE).

This time around I had a new challenge for her. I sent her a pair of Nick’s old camo cargo pants, and requested something a la the Market Tote that took advantage of the pants’ “coolness” in a lunch tote for Nick.

Wow! It’s everything I hoped for, and more… Look at all the cool stuff:

Cargo pockets as exterior pockets.

Pants waistband as shoulder strap.

Ankle zipper as bag closure.

And lined with an old pillowcase, for full upcycle flair!

This is not a sponsored, or even requested, blog post. I’m simply sharing the wonderful work of Hillbilly Creations. Oh, and by the way, Mrs. Davis is also the SAHM of a family who lost their home in a tornado a couple of years ago. Nice Christian family that you’ll help support!

Jul 072011
 


Read about the beginning of our natural deodorant adventure HERE.

Looking at the date I first wrote about natural deodorant made me realize that it’s been SIX MONTHS now. There have been several interesting developments that I wanted to share with you – at least if you consider anything about deodorant interesting!

One of the first things was giving up on the store-bought deodorant stick dispenser.

Fist of all, it’s not made for that kind of use. After a refill or two, the pusher-upper stopped pushing – the threads had stripped.

Secondly, it’s not really, really suited for this product. Your “Secret” doesn’t turn to liquid if it gets a little warm in your bathroom…

My first through was that it was “a bother” to scoop some of the mixture out with my fingers and smear it on my underarms. After all, then I also had to wash off my hand.

Wow, really?

I had no idea I was that much of a prima donna!

Then I ran across a great quote. Someone shared on Facebook, so I’m not sure this is an exact quote, and I have no source… But I like it!

Simple living does not mean removing all complexities.
It means focusing your energy on the complexities that matter.

No, mixing up the deodorant is not quite as simple as buying a tube of that stuff at the store.

No, applying it turns out not to be as simple as swiping some on from that tube.

But… it’s better. It’s more wholesome. It even is, in the grand scheme of life, a more simple – straightforward – product.

So, I continue.

And Wolf got on the bandwagon, as well, with trepidation.

He has used deodorant spray for many years, because stick deodorant clogged his pores and caused under-arm irritation.

Besides, he hates coconut. I don’t say “hate” much… I think it applies here.

The verdict?

A new convert!

He is not bothered by the scent. He does not have irritation or clogged pores. And apparently it’s getting the job done.

Oh, and he totally agrees with my rambling thoughts on the “complexity” of creating and applying it. ;)